I can’t be bothered getting indignant at all the bourgie-wourgie tributes to Ballard because this kind of assimilation to the cosy is what the English always do with their writers if they survive to old age, no?
As Max Beerbohm hypothesised about another literary radical: “Byron!–he would be all forgotten to-day if he had lived to be a florid old gentleman with iron-grey whiskers, writing very long, very able letters to The Times about the Repeal of the Corn Laws.”
The class-ridden posturing and genre turf wars which are starting to spring up in the wake of Ballard’s death are not very interesting, but it is worth having a laugh when Martin Amis tells us that Ballard “had no ear for dialogue”. (The war against cliché is going well, then, I see. My money was always on cliché.)
“Cardboard characters” is another one doing the rounds. One of the things I love most about Ballard’s writing is that he deliberately abandons the pretence that one set of puppets made of lifelike painted plaster, ears for dialogue, middle-class adultery and career politics are better or more well-rounded than those which he constructed from a sort of papier-mâché of scientific journal articles, celebrity magazines, pornography and surrealist art.
Currently reading through the two-volume Collected Short Stories, which I bought on Sunday; almost all of which I read as a teenager, but which I don’t own and haven’t revisited since. The early stories are mostly better than I remembered.