Welcome to a newsletter for readers of J. G. Ballard's fiction. It is produced by David Pringle, 124 Osborne Road, Brighton BN1 6LU, UK, and is not an "official" publication. All opinions expressed here are either those of the editor or of named critics and correspondents. Letters of comment are most welcome, and will be deemed to be quotable unless you indicate otherwise.
With the success of Empire of the Sun (the novel) in 1984, The Day of Creation in 1987, and now the Spielberg movie version of Empire of the Sun, interest in Ballard's work is higher than ever. I have received many requests to revive JGB News, the original series of which ran for sixteen issues between November 1981 and January 1986. I've resisted doing so because of the pressure of other commitments, but now I propose to produce this newsletter on a quarterly basis...[Alas, it never happened -- DP, 1992]
How does Ballard himself feel about the big-budget film based on his best-known novel? He wrote the following brief notes recently for Premiere, an American cinema magazine:
"Empire of the Sun is based on my autobiographical novel. The still on the preceding pages, the first I have seen from Steven Spielberg's film, affected me powerfully. Spielberg has brilliantly recreated the violence and terror of those air raids that I witnessed as a boy in the Japanese internment camp where I was held from 1942 to 1945. Like Jim in this scene, I cheered and waved to the American pilots.
"Soon after his return from the location shooting in Shanghai, Spielberg asked me if I would play a guest at the costume party on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. To have a book filmed by Spielberg is every writer's dream, but to appear in the film as well, even if only as an extra... visions of a new career swam before my eyes. When I drove to the country house outside London where the costume party was filmed, I had never met Spielberg though it seemed a good omen that after our long, separate careers in science fiction, we should rendezvous on the set of Empire of the Sun.
"I was struck by Spielberg's total commitment to the most serious elements in my novel. My two days on the set passed in a dream, and not only because I was wearing my John Bull costume top hat, Union Jack vest, and red cutaway coat. The production team had carefully researched the film's historical background, furnishing the set with authentic 1930s decor, telephones, and magazines, which I had not seen for more than 40 years but for me were suddenly more real than the props of my everyday life in the 1980s. At the end of the costume party the guests were filmed leaving the house, and I had a strange sense of travelling back in time when I stepped into the drive to find a circle of 1930s Packards and Buicks waiting for us. Uniformed Chinese chauffeurs stood beside them as if ready to return us to wartime Shanghai, to that internment camp beside the airfield where Mustangs were attacking while my younger self, so superbly played by Christian Bale, cheered on the end of the war."
BALLARD'S RECENT WRITINGS
The following is a list of all JGB's published writings since JGB News 15 appeared at the end of 1984:
1) "Christmas Books: Writers, Critics and Public Figures Recom-mend the Most Enjoyable Books of 1984." Sunday Times, 9th Dec-ember 1984, p 33. JGB's contribution to this round-robin commends My Last Breath by Luis Bunuel, Getting to Know the General by Graham Greene and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.
2) "Answers to a Questionnaire." Ambit 100, Spring 1985, pp 14-17. Short story. Since reprinted in Giles Gordon, ed., an anthology of the year's best stories (I've mislaid the title and publishing details).
3) "The Man Who Walked on the Moon." Interzone 13, Autumn 1985, pp 3-9. Short story. Since reprinted in John Clute, et al, eds. Interzone: The 2nd Anthology, London: Simon & Schuster Ltd., 1987.
4) "Our Own Swift." Guardian, 27th September 1985, p 11. Review of The Adding Machine: Collected Essays by William S. Burroughs.
5) "Books of the Year: Critics, Writers and Public Figures Recommend to Our Readers the Books They Have Most Enjoyed in 1985." Sunday Times, 8th December 1985, p 33. A short piece in which JGB commends Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth, Hans Bellmer by Peter Webb and The Adding Machine by William Burroughs.
6) "Sunday Times/Gollancz SF Story Competition." Sunday Times, 15th December 1985, p 41. An introduction to a competition which offers £500 prize for the best 3,000-word sf story.
7) "In the Asylum of Dreams." Guardian, 4th July 1986, p 18. Review of Theatre of Sleep by Guido Almansi and Claude Beguin.
8) "A Truly Modern Monster." Guardian, 24th October 1986, p 13. Review of Salvador Dali: The Surrealist Jester by Meryle Secrest.
9) "Pick of the Books of 1986." Guardian, 5th December 1986, p 14. A brief piece in which he commends A Life in Movies by Michael Powell, Salvador Dali: The Surrealist Jester by Meryle Secrest and Letters from Hollywood by Michael Moorcock.
10) The Day of Creation. London: Gollancz, 10th September 1987, 254 pp. His new novel. Forthcoming in the USA from Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Spring 1988.
11) "Outer Limits: Blast Off with Ten Fantasy Tapes." American Film, October 1987, pp 57-59. An article in which JGB commends his ten favourite sf movies available on video: Forbidden Planet, Dr Strangelove, Alphaville, Barbarella, Silent Running, Dark Star, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien and The Road Warrior (Mad Max II).
12) "Empire of the Sun." Premiere Vol. 1, No. 4, December 1987, pp 42-45. Three paragraphs by JGB (reprinted elsewhere in this newsletter) accompanied by several stills from the film.
13) "Writers' Reading in 1987." Guardian, 11th December 1987, p 13. A short contribution in which JGB commends The Oxford Companion to the Mind ed. Richard L. Gregory, Three Forms of Sudden Death by F. Gonzalez-Crussi and Inside Warner Bros (1935-1951) ed. Rudy Behlmer.
For reasons of space, a few passages were cut from my most recent interview with JGB, conducted on 21st August 1987 and published in Interzone 22, Winter 1987/88. Here they are:
JGB: It's quite clear that the technologies that delivered Armstrong to the moon and brought him back -- a stupendous achievement in the light of their limitations -- aren't adequate to lift huge loads into space. And the hazards of living in space are so great that, far from being landscapes of opportunity, the surface of the moon or Mars will become a kind of institutionalized nightmare for those who actually survive in whatever bomb-proof bunkers are built for them. It's a frightening prospect.
DP: The Unlimited Dream Company and Empire of the Sun were both autobiographical, although the latter was more so than the former. Has your new novel, The Day of Creation, got any significant autobiographical element?
JGB: Not really. There are loose affinities between the personal history of the central figure and me. I and Mallory were both brought up abroad -- he in Hong Kong, and I in Shanghai. We both studied medicine. My character goes on to become a doctor and actually qualifies. Both are rather disenchanted with Britain: he leaves it, sensibly, whereas I of course stayed here, and became a science fiction writer (which was probably the next best thing to emigrating; it's a sort of spiritual emigration). There are affinities, and probably slight affinities of character. I could hardly avoid those, writing it in the first person. But that's not an important aspect of the book.
DP: I felt the ending was rather sad...
JGB: Sad? I thought it was cheerful. What a pity. In what sense?
DP: The chapter before the last, where the mighty river dries up and the last few drops trickle through his hands...
JGB: Well, one day it may come back. Not that my word is worth any more than anybody else's in these matters. But that had to happen, didn't it? How else could one have concluded the whole thing? One had to go back to square one of course, and then leave the possibility in the reader's mind that the whole thing has been a kind of invention (like the book itself). I felt it was fairly optimistic in its conclusion.
DP: Have you ever been to Africa?
JGB: I've been to Egypt. Of course the country I describe, the former French East Africa, in Day of Creation, never existed. You can think of it as something like the Central African Republic, Bokassa's former kingdom. I don't think it matters in the case of this book. One uses locations one hasn't visited. I've never been to Cape Kennedy. In certain kinds of fiction it would matter enormously, but in imaginative fiction it doesn't matter. Le Douanier Rousseau, who painted those jungles that have implanted themselves indelibly on the 20th-century consciousness, had never been to Africa either. He's supposed to have taken his inspiration from the botanical gardens in Paris. In imaginative fiction, as in imaginative painting, I don't think it matters. In fact the image of a strange location may well be more powerful than the real location itself. Obviously, I couldn't have written Empire of the Sun without having had the first-hand experiences of been born and brought up in Shanghai. But this book is a different kettle of fish.
DP: There is a long-standing connection between you and Steven Spielberg -- namely Richard Matheson.
JGB: Well, I know that Matheson wrote sf short stories, and he wrote Duel and a number of other sf films.
DP: He wrote a great deal of the Twilight Zone TV series, which Spielberg has made a film of (one of the episodes was a remake of a Matheson episode). You've mentioned Matheson in the past...
JGB: Oh yes, I liked Matheson's short stories tremendously. I thought they were awfully good. They were probably a bit of an influence on me, because they showed that you could write a science fiction set exclusively in the present day -- which many of his short stories were, they were psychological stories set in the landscape of 50s America, owing nothing to time travel, interplanetary voyages and so forth. He was one of the sf writers I read when I was in Canada. One of the very few books that I brought back with me, if not the only one, was a collection of Richard Matheson's short stories, which would have been published in paperback in the States in '54. I can't remember the title, I lost it a long time ago. He wrote that vampire story, didn't he? I Am Legend -- several films were made of it.
DP: And of course The Incredible Shrinking Man.
JGB: Marvellous film that. I read the novel years after seeing the film; I can't remember how I responded to the novel, frankly, but the film was a masterpiece in its way. He's presumably still working, he's probably not much older than I am. It's interesting that Spielberg should have turned towards him.
JGB IN FILMS, TV, RADIO & THEATRE
With the recent release of Spielberg's version of Empire of the Sun, this seems an appropriate time to attempt a preliminary listing of the media adaptations of Ballard's work to date:
1) "Thirteen to Centaurus." BBC Television, circa 1965. An adaptation of the short story in the Out of the Unknown science-fiction series.
2) "The Assassination Weapon." Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1969. A multi-media play based on the short story.
3) When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Hammer Films, 1969. A movie directed by Val Guest for which JGB wrote the original screen "treatment."
4) "Crash" (?). BBC Television, 1971. A twenty-minute film based on parts of The Atrocity Exhibition and "starring" JGB.
5) "The Unlimited Dream Company." 1983. A short film directed by Sam Scoggins, and featuring an interview with JGB.
6) "Crash: A Mini-World's Fair-style Exhibition." San Francisco, 19th October 1984. A theatrical "happening"-cum-artshow with various performers, organized by the editors of Re/Search to celebrate the publication of Re/Search 8/9: J. G. Ballard.
7) "Venus Smiles." BBC Radio 4, 13th March 1985. A 47-minute adaptation of JGB's short story by Michelene Wandor.
8) Empire of the Sun. Warner Bros., 1987. A feature film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on JGB's novel.
The above list is probably far from complete. Both The Drowned World and Empire of the Sun have been read on BBC Radio in the "Book at Bedtime" slot. No doubt there have been other stage and radio adaptations of particular works. Please write in if you have details of any!
JGB'S MEDIA COVERAGE
The following list is a continuation of the one published in JGB News issues 14 and 15 ("reprint" copies of which may still be obtained from me at £1.50 [$3] each). It attempts to annotate all English-language interviews, profiles, critical essays, reviews and interesting mentions of JGB and his works:
58) Oates, Quentin. "Critics Crowner." Bookseller, 22nd December 1984, pp 2480-2481. An article which comments on the "Books of the Year" recommendations in the various national newspapers: "there was no doubt about the choice for Book of the Year. It was, not unsurprisingly, J. G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun (Gollancz), which was mentioned no less than 16 times."
59) Benison, Jonathan. "In Default of a Poet in Space: J. G. Ballard and the Current State of Nihilism." In Luk De Vos, ed. Just the Other Day: Essays on the Suture of the Future. Antwerp, 1985, pp 405-424. [Offprint seen.] Long, difficult essay which utilizes the approaches of Jean Baudrillard and other cultural theorists. Takes JGB's early story "The Concentration City" as its starting point, then deals with Crash, High-Rise and other works, referring in passing to Philip K. Dick, the Strugatsky Brothers, etc.
60) Punter, David. "J. G. Ballard: Alone Among the Murder Machines." In Punter, The Hidden Script: Writing and the Uncon-scious. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, pp 9-27. Long, rhapsodic appreciation of The Atrocity Exhibition and other works, written in the style of Punter's (apparent) mentor, Jean Baudrillard. More of a prose poem than a critical essay, it describes The Unlimited Dream Company as "Ballard's masterpiece to date... a dizzying, heady text..." Oddly, it makes no mention of Crash.
61) Lloyd, Paul M. "An Unusual Ballard Novel." Fantasy Review, January 1985, p 7. Favourable review of Empire... which points to "the source of the haunting images of Ballard's most memorable science fiction... The deserted motels and their drained swimming pools on the vermilion sands of the Florida coast recall the uninhabited mansions of Shanghai's International Settlement."
62) Romer, Kathleen M. "Critical 'Collage' Welcome Change." Fantasy Review, January 1985, pp 36-37. Review of Re/Search 8/9 ed. Vale et al: "reading the monograph is like being bombarded with splices of JGB's life from a variety of perspectives, and the total effect is a more complete understanding of the writer than any single form could provide."
63) Bleiler, Everett F. "A Valuable But Overpriced Bibliography." Fantasy Review, January 1985, p 39. Review of J. G. Ballard: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography by David Pringle. Refers to JGB as "the finest SF writer to have arisen in Great Britain in the 1960s". Describes the volume's interview as a "disappointment" -- "Perhaps Ballard was in a withdrawn mood that day, for the interview is blah and trivial."
64) "J. G. Ballard: The Rewards of Empire." Locus, Vol. 18, No. 1, January 1985, pp 1, 62. Front-cover news story, with photograph of JGB. Reports that Empire of the Sun is "Gollancz's biggest seller in a decade, with 34,000 trade sales and 55,000 book club sales so far". Also states that Warner Bros have bought the film rights "for a lot of money."
65) Harder, Dan. "A Logic Beyond Reason: The Empire of the Sun." San Francisco Review of Books, Vol. IX, No. 3, January/February 1985, pp 7-8, 14. Long review of Empire... which describes the novel in great detail, refers (oddly) to the author as "Jim Gerald Ballard," praises his past sf, then asserts: "this most recent book is far from being his most effective... [it has] a vision far less novel and provocative than his other woks of fiction." The piece concludes with some lengthy philosophical ruminations, invoking Heidegger and others.
66) Lehman, David, with Donna Foote. "Prisoner in Shanghai." Newsweek, 28th January 1985, p 69. Short profile/interview which concentrates on Empire..., saying it belongs "on anyone's short list of outstanding novels inspired by the second world war."
67) Murray, Charles Shaar. "J. G. Ballard: Man of Irony." Vogue, Vol. 142, No. 2, February 1985, pp 140-141. Short profile /interview, which describes JGB as "no gloom-ridden ascetic but, rather, an urbane and jovial ironist... one eyebrow almost permanently raised."
68) Watson, Ian, and John Clute. Untitled reviews of Re/Search 8/9 and JGB: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Foundation 33, Spring 1985, pp 96-98. Watson refers to Re/Search as "a splendid publication... a living book, rich in paradoxes." More dourly, Clute says of the second item: "There is very little wrong with this bibliography not foreordained by the criteria that govern the series of which it is a part, and if the dollar falls it may be possible for a human being to purchase it in England."
69) Greenland, Colin. Untitled review of Re/Search 8/9. Interzone 11, Spring 1985, p 48: "this San Franciscan Festschrift is a glossy blue capsule of concentrated essence of Ballard, which is, heaven knows, concentrated already. Potent stuff."
70) Wolfe, Gary K. Untitled review of JGB: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Science-Fiction Studies Vol. 12, Part 1, Spring 1985, pp 102-103: "a crucial addition to Ballard studies, and it could not come at a more appropriate time..."
71) Marroni, Francesco. "High-Rise: Interior Adventure and Fictional Space--Topology as a Metalanguage in J. G. Ballard's Fiction." Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 10, April 1985, pp 81-93. An English-language contribution to a journal published by Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. Analyses JGB's novel in detail.
72) Hurst, L. J. Untitled review of JGB: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Vector, 124/125, April/May 1985, pp 25-26. Fairly long and highly favourable: "In this bibliography David Pringle has provided a major tool to work with the products of perhaps the world's greatest author."
73) Brigg, Peter. J. G. Ballard. "Starmont Reader's Guide 26." Mercer Island, Washington: Starmont House, September 1985, 138 pp. A full, chronological critical study by a Canadian literary academic. Contains: Chronology and Canon; I: Introduction; II: Early Short Fiction 1956-1969; III: The Global Disaster Quartet; IV: The Atrocity Exhibition; V: The Urban Disaster Trilogy; VI: Recent Short Fiction 1970-1982; VII: The Unlimited Dream Com-pany, Hello America; VIII: Empire of the Sun; IX: Concluding Note; X: Primary Bibliography of Fiction; XI: Annotated Primary Bibliography of Nonfiction; XII: Annotated Secondary Biblio-graphy.
74) Pringle, David. "J. G. Ballard: A Review of His Fiction Prior to Empire of the Sun." Words: The New Literary Forum, Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1985, pp 6-19. This is a straight reprint of the introduction to my JGB: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography.
75) Vine, Phillip. "Interview with J. G. Ballard." Words: The New Literary Forum, Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1985, pp 20-23. Short postal interview, in which JGB's responses are reproduced in the original handwriting.
76) Pringle, David. "Psychoanalyst of the Electronic Age." Words: The New Literary Forum, Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1985, pp 24-27. Interview with JGB conducted on 23rd September 1984. This piece was originally intended for UK Omni, which folded in late 1984 after just one issue; consequently the emphasis is mainly on science, technology and sf.
77) Linnett, Peter. "Jim's War." Words: The New Literary Forum, Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1985, pp 28-33. Longish review of Empire..., emphasizing the fact that the book is a novel, not an autobiography.
78) Watson, Don. "Closely Observed S/Trains." New Musical Ex-press, 26th October 1985, pp 16-18, 20. Profile/interview which deals with Empire..., Kafka, pop music, bourgeois values and conformity, and much else. "The only mode of reality now is inside our own heads... And surrounding us on all sides is this massive bank of fiction. Even the English countryside and most of the countryside in the Western World is totally artificial what with factory farming, landscaping, concrete cows at Milton Keynes, colour co-ordinated nature trails..."
79) Firsching, Lorenz J. "J. G. Ballard's Ambiguous Apocalypse." Science Fiction Studies #37 (Vol. 12, Part 3), November 1985.
80) Milicia, Joe. "Dry Thoughts in a Dry Season." Riverside Quarterly Vol. 7, No. 4, December 1985.
81) Stephenson, Gregory. "J. G. Ballard: The Quest for an Ontological Eden." Foundation 35, Winter 1985/86, pp 38-47. Deals with the theme of "transcendence" in Ballard's fiction up to and including Myths of the Near Future.
82) Carr, C. "J. G. Ballard's Crash Course in Modern Civ." Voice Literary Supplement, May 1986, pp 7-8. Beginners' guide to JGB, concentrating mainly on his works of the 1970s. "In that fright-ening terrain also explored by Celine, Genet, and William S. Burroughs, learned behavior caves in before the onslaught of obsession and psychic bile."
83) Brigg, Peter. "The Night Dream and the Glimmer of Light: J. G. Ballard's Hello America." Foundation 36, Summer 1986, pp 31-34. An attempt to state the case for a relatively under-appreciated JGB novel. Peter Brigg finds there "a lovely serio-comic elegance."
84) Crary, Jonathan. "J. G. Ballard and the Promiscuity of Forms." Zone nos. 1 & 2, late 1986 (?), pp 159-165. This item appears in a 480-page New York magazine devoted to "exploration of problems in contemporary culture." Invoking Andre Breton, Baudrillard, Jean-Luc Godard, etc., it deals mainly with JGB's 1970s work from an "architectural" point of view.
85) Webb, W. L. "The End of the World is Nigh." Guardian, 2nd December 1986, p 24. Essay on "Modernism and Postmodernism" in literature, headed by photographs of William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett and JGB. Describes the international literary scene, with particular reference to the sense of disaster: "I suppose Vonnegut and our own J. G. Ballard in their different ways are the paradigmatic postmodernists. Vonnegut as an adolescent prisoner of war survives the Dresden firestorm, and spends his writing life in the strictly mad task of trying to reconcile his childhood in the old German-American mid-West and today's gobbling consumerism with the sights that met his eyes 40 years ago wen he emerged from a butcher's cold-store into the charnel-house our bombers had made of 'the first fancy city I'd ever seen.' Ballard, born in Shanghai and growing up in a Japanese prison camp, plants his Max Ernst landscapes in the gardens of bricky Shepperton and the exotica of his boyhood dreams of science in the interstices of motorways and abandoned runways; only in his fifties does he write a novel registering something almost like ordinary human contact between the characters."
86) Kerman, Judith B. "We are the Survivors." In Yoke, Carl B., ed. Phoenix from the Ashes, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
87) Finkelstein, Haim. "'Deserts of Vast Eternity': J. G. Ballard and Robert Smithson." Foundation no. 39, Spring 1987.
88) Burbeck, Rodney. "Magnificent Obsessions." Books, No. 6, September 1987, pp 14-15. Joint interview with JGB and Clive Barker, "two of the most imaginative writers of the post-war years --- one a distinguished master of SF and fantasy, the other a thrusting Young Turk of the genre". Their discussion deals mainly with The Day of Creation, and mentions the fact that both were influenced at an early age by J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
89) Barber, Lynn. "Lucky Jim." Sunday Express Magazine, 6th September 1987, pp 32-34. Profile/interview which concentrates on JGB's home life and his reactions to recent fame and wealth: "I gave most of the money [from Empire of the Sun] to the taxman and the rest to my children. Honestly, Lynn, you've become terribly bourgeois. Why do you keep wanting to talk about money?"
90) Gill, John. "Lucky Jim." Time Out, 9th September 1987, pp 24-25. Profile/interview-cum-review of The Day of Creation. Mentions the filming of Empire..., and adds: "That most famous earlier work, Crash, is in fact in pre-production as a movie to be filmed by Mark Romanek, director of the wonderful Static. By bizarre coincidence, the role of Elizabeth Taylor has been updated and changed to Grace Jones, precisely the woman who sang Daniel Miller's song-of-Crash, 'Warm Leatherette'. Ballard doubts that they'll persuade her to appear."
91) Kimberley, Nick. "The River from Nowhere." City Limits, 10th September 1987, p 88. Short Profile/interview-cum-review of The Day of Creation. JGB says of Empire...: "I had letters wanting to know what happened to Jim when he came to England. But I couldn't write a novel about England in the late 40s... When I came here in 1946, England was like Spandau, a huge rambling old prison full of mad people serving life sentences."
92) Thomson, Ian. "Ballard: Return to New Worlds." Independent, 10th September 1987, p 13. Review of The Day of Creation. Describes it as "absolutely vintage Ballard... at his fantastical best, Ballard is quite simply sui generis. It is surely a mark of his genius, and one of the most extraordinary things about this book, that the landscapes are quite convincingly those of their chosen setting, Africa, yet Ballard himself has never been there." Concludes that this "is a powerful, disturbing, sometimes faintly ridiculous book... but it is never anything but compulsively absorbing; the white heat of its images seems to burn off the page..."
93) MacCabe, Colin. "Spirit of the River." Listener, 10th September 1987, p ?. Review of The Day of Creation: "this wonderful new novel... The whole book is a striking meditation on the extent to which the media inform and construct the world we see... Sangar, with his camera and his cliched and continuous voice-over is simply the latest of a long line of Western representations of the foreign and the exotic dating back to Hakluyt's writings and beyond. The hero's very name, Mallory, echoes one of those legendary 20th-century explorers whose exploits formed the pattern for narratives, fictional and documentary, which brought the exotic to our suburban doors."
94) Glendinning, Victoria. "Potent Parables for Our Time." Times, 10th September 1987, p 10. Review of The Day of Creation, together with McEwan's The Child in Time. Confesses to being "mildly disappointed by these novels," though both are "inventive, humane, and, as it happens, sharply critical of the way we live now." Describes the JGB book, in which the hero has "big macho adventures," and complains at "Ballard's insistence on telling us, throughout, what his novel is really 'about'."
95) Bailey, Paul. "Into the Dark." Guardian, 11th September 1987, p 13. Review of The Day of Creation. Describes the novel as "essentially, an adventure story... the most eventful work of fiction I have read in ages." Compares with Conrad, and commends JGB's "beautiful prose." The author has "brought off something rare in this fine book."
96) Priest, Christopher. "Return to the Source." New Statesman, 11th September 1987, p 26. Review of The Day of Creation. Comments that JGB's novels rarely have plots in the conventional sense -- "plenty of events, though... The real journey described in the book is an inward one. This is not Heart of Darkness at all; Aguirre, Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo would be closer. Werner Herzog once described himself as someone who shouldn't be allowed to make films, presumably because he endangered other people's lives... To those of us who have been feeling psychically endangered by Ballard's writing since the early 1960s, this feels like a triumphant return to form."
97) Enright, D. J. "Reversing the Flow." Times Literary Supple-ment, 11th September 1987, p 977. Review of The Day of Creation. "Had Conrad been inclined to fantasy, or less to fact and discipline, this is a novel he might have written." Refers to the book's "acid sweetness", and invokes T. S. Eliot.
98) Hughes, David. "The Desert Dreamer." Mail on Sunday, 13th September 1987, p 28. Short review of The Day of Creation. "The book is flawless but somehow remote, exquisitely made but suave. Perhaps Ballard brings too little pace and humour to the drama for it to matter enough. But never has a setting been more richly presented in a prose that makes noble reading."
99) Amis, Martin. "Water Diviner." Observer, 13th September 1987, p 27. Review of The Day of Creation. Pokes fun at the author by asserting: "I know what old Ballardeers will make of it. Dialogues like the following are easy to imagine: 'I've read the new Ballard.' 'And?' 'It's like the early stuff.' 'Really? What's the element?' 'Water.' 'Lagoons?' 'Some. Mainly a river.' 'What's the hero's name? Maitland? Melville?' 'Mallory.' 'Does Mallory go down the river?' 'No. Up.' 'Yes of course. Natch. Does he hate the river or love it?' 'Both.'" Mentions "Forrester" [sic], Haggard, and the Boy's Own Paper, then discusses JGB's style and vocabulary, before concluding: "You finish the book with some bafflement and irritation. But this is only half the experience. You then sit around waiting for the novel to come and haunt you. And it does."
100) Sinclair, Andrew. "In Search of the Sources of the Imagination." Sunday Times, 13th September 1987, p 59. Review of The Day of Creation, together with Ian McEwan's The Child in Time and others. Finds the JGB novel "submerged in the swampland of mysticism"; however, "the adventure story is full of suspense."
101) Boston, Anne. "Suicidal Quest." New Society, 18th September 1987, p 28. Review of The Day of Creation. Comments that JGB "returns to his earlier stylised, distanced form (and indeed resurrects Dr Mallory from the title story of The Day of Forever, published 20 years ago)". Evoking Bunuel, the reviewer refers to JGB's "furious intensity" and "bravura performance," then concludes: "Mallory's lunatic battle with his river is as fine an allegory of the writer's suicidal quest for self-discovery as you are likely to find."
102) Profumo, David. "The River of No Return." Spectator, 19th September 1987, pp 46-47. Review of The Day of Creation. "In terms of literary geography, the story at its outset is bordered by Graham Greene and Patrick White, with a distant view of Theroux... A country of the mind as vivid and viable as anything this extraordinary writer has ever produced."
103) Pringle, David. "J. G. Ballard" (interview). Interzone no. 22, Winter 1987/88.
104) Bailey, K. V. Review of The Day of Creation. Vector no. 141, December/January 1987/88.
Note: this newsletter was never distributed at the time, but I'm now making it available those who buy back-issues of JGB News -- David Pringle (1992).