The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballardby J. G. Ballard, Martin Amis (Introduction)
The American publication of The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard is a landmark event. Increasingly recognized as one of the greatest and most prophetic novelists, J. G. Ballard was a “writer
“More than one thousand compelling pages from one of the most haunting, cogent, and individual imaginations in contemporary literature.”—William Boyd
The American publication of The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard is a landmark event. Increasingly recognized as one of the greatest and most prophetic novelists, J. G. Ballard was a “writer of enormous inventive powers,” who, in the words of Malcolm Bradbury, possessed, “like Calvino, a remarkable gift for filling the empty deprived spaces of modern life with the invisible cities and the wonder worlds of imagination.”
Best known for his novels, such as Empire of the Sun and Crash, Ballard rose to fame as the “ideal chronicler of disturbed modernity” (The Observer). Perhaps less known, though equally brilliant, were his devastatingly original short stories, which span nearly fifty years and reveal an unparalleled prescience so unique that a new word—Ballardian—had to be invented. Ballard, who wrote that “short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available,” regretted the fact that the public had increasingly lost its ability to appreciate them.
With 98 pulse-quickening stories, this volume helps restore the very art form that Ballard feared was comatose. Ballard’s inimitable style was already present in his early stories, most of them published in science fiction magazines. These stories are surreal, richly atmospheric and splendidly elliptical, featuring an assortment of psychotropic houses, time-traveling assassins, and cities without clocks. Over the next fifty years, his fierce imaginative energy propelled him to explore new topics, including the dehumanization of technology, the brutality of the corporation, and nuclear Armageddon. Depicting the human soul as “being enervated and corrupted by the modern world” (New York Times), Ballard began to examine themes like overpopulation, as in “Billenium,” a claustrophobic imagining of a world of 20 billion people crammed into four-square-meter rooms, or the false realities of modern media, as in the classic “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,” a faux-psychological study of the sexual and violent reactions elicited by viewing Reagan’s face on television, in which Ballard predicted the unholy fusion of pop culture and sound-bite politics thirteen years before Reagan became president. Given Ballard’s heightened powers of perception, it is astonishing that the dehumanized world that he apprehended so acutely neither diminished his own febrile imagination nor his engagement with mankind, evident in every story, including two new ones for this American edition.
So eerily prophetic is his vision, so commanding are his literary gifts, the import and insight of J. G. Ballard’s deeply humanistic and transcendent works can only grow in years to come.
The Washington Post
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- New Edition
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- 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.50(d)
Meet the Author
J.G. Ballard was born in Shanghai in 1930 and lived in England from 1946 until his death in London in 2009. He is the author of nineteen novels, including Empire of the Sun, The Drought, and Crash, with many of them made into major films.
Martin Amis is one of Britain's most prolific post-war writers and a professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester. His stories and essays explore the absurdity of the postmodern condition.
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Anyone who still thinks Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, or whatever you want to call it, is inferior to what is considered mainstream literature, must change their minds after reading even a small random selection of the short stories in this complete anthology.
I'm so glad to see all these collected in one volume. I've been hoping to get this author's collected works for quite some time--especially now that he's passed on.
J.G. Ballard wrote for himself, even when he was crafting subversive, subtle science-fiction stories to sell to magazines whose readers found him the odd man out. I recommend this collection to anyone who is interested in human psychology: the changeling ego, the voracious but vacuous id, and the paralyzing superego that just steers everything back to a thanatotic surrender. Perhaps a PTSD sufferer, Ballard allowed his imagination to explode virtually all myths of human cosmic worth, through explorations of ambivalent reactions to the wondrous and dull alike. "Minus One" chronicles the sinister disappearance, and subsequent "nonexistence," of a mental patient at a home for affluent castoffs. When the non-man's wife shows up...guess the closing lines of the story (two words). Ballard went on to create the perverted psychiatrist Wilder Penrose in the novel Super-Cannes; I still find Penrose creepier and more haunting than Hannibal Lecter. Ballard's style is famously clinical and affectless, but he delivers the goods. He knew how chilling the very concept of time can be (as did Emily Dickinson). "End-Game" deals with a deposed despot trapped with a hulking chess partner who will be his executioner at an unspecified date--five seconds or five years from now. "Manhole 69" shows the Freudian results of a cure for sleep. You'll never take sleep for granted after reading this tale. Ballard never tells you what you already know. He doesn't spend 60% of a story telling you about the time period, its tastes, and the weather. With a humor you must find in his psychic explorations, he blasts you off to visits with the greatest, most unknowable alien of all--the self, a dark and fleeting shadow in innerspace.
I usually do not go for short stories (except for maybe Donald Barthelme's short stories), but I am a JG Ballard fan after reading several of his novels many years ago. His writings seem to have a sort of conservative, Martian-like existence--they are that different than Earth-like, not always nice at all, but they are thought provoking. FA Hayek's economic nonfiction is so bizarre that it tends to drift into exposing the validity of the possible real existence of Ballard's scifi world. However, Hayek does it with never stating anything of the kind.