Tag Archives: The Atrocity Exhibition

Sinister in suburbia

Martin Amis pays tribute to the late author J.G. Ballard:

Ballard was a great exponent of the Flaubertian line — that writers should be orderly and predictable in their lives, so that they can be savage and sinister in their work. He lived in a semi-detached in Shepperton, which might as well have been called “Dunroamin,” and there was the tomato-red Ford Escort parked in its slot in the front garden. When I wrote a long profile of him in 1984, I arrived at 11 in the morning and his first words were “Whisky! Gin! Vodka!” He told me that “Crash freaks” from, say, the Sorbonne would visit him expecting to find a miasma of lysergic-acid and child abuse. But, in fact, what they found was a robustly rounded and amazingly cheerful, positively sunny — suburbanite.

As it turned out, the wildest behavior indulged in by the  author of such wildly disturbing works as The Atrocity Exhibition, Crash and Empire of the Sun was to have a glass of Scotch every hour of the day, starting early in the morning. It wasn’t exactly an indulgence: when Ballard found himself a widower with a demanding writing schedule and children to support, that hourly dose was what he needed to stay functional. He also worked to push back the starting time for that first glass.

I wouldn’t recommend that for anybody else. Personally, I’d stick with coffee — or some nice green tea. But it seemed to work for Ballard, and his books worked for me.

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