Category Archives: j.g. ballard

The Pornography of Infinity

China Miéville on JG Ballard:

More than a quarter-century later, Ballard inverted the conceit with “The Enormous Space,” in which a man’s refusal to leave a suburban house bloats it until, psychotic, he perceives it as a universe. (In a slighter variation, “Report on an Unidentified Space Station,” the entirety of our cosmos exists within one set of rooms.) The pornography of infinity is a longstanding science fiction trope. H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and Olaf Stapledon, among many others, counterpose the vasty deeps of the universe, the interplanetary sublime, with a specklike human subjectivity to produce a by-now rather well-worn satori of unconvincing humility. (This is brilliantly and affectionately parodied by Douglas Adams in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, with its Total Perspective Vortex.) In “The Enormous Space,” Ballard’s skewed fidelity to the trope transforms the banal topography of a living room or a kitchen into something unthinkable, and we respond with genuine awe at the narrator’s lunatic Scott-of-the-Antarctic explorations of his kitchen. Whether they contract or expand, Ballard’s rooms never change, and never let us go.

Effective at Destroying the Last Vestiges of British Morality

Harper’s nice essay on JG Ballard is liberated from behind the pay wall. Enjoy:

Sometime in the 1960s, however, a rawer Britain emerged. One way out of dying Britishness was ribaldry or irony, and at this the novelist Kingsley Amis, the dramatist John Osborne, and the critic Kenneth Tynan excelled. Another less obvious but equally effective route is evident in the strange, half-underground career of J. G. Ballard, who went from being a science-fiction writer through to avant-gardism of a sort, ending up as a national sage. Like the Orwell of 1984, as well as Daniel Defoe and Thomas Hobbes, Ballard was an arch-dystopian, making his debut amid the postwar British scene of cracked Bakelite, chipped teacups, and squadrons of bombers on the flatlands of East Anglia, readied for Armageddon. He didn’t believe that human actions were rational or easily fathomable, and it was probably this, more than any view of history or aesthetic theory, that led him away from what he regarded as the staleness and artificiality of contemporary literature. He was to prove formidably effective in destroying the last vestiges of the British official morality of cheeriness and stiffened upper lips, and you can still see people reading Ballard in the crowded, ramshackle carriages of the London Underground, absorbing a whiff of catastrophe between the familiar, blandly named tube stations, as their forebears must have done when turning the pages of H. G. Wells’s end-of-civilization fantasies.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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