A meagre homage

JG Ballard died in 2009 on April 19 (I am a tad late to say ‘OTD’).

I read his “The Voices of Time” in a paperback collection edited by Damien Knight, 100 Years of Science Fiction. (I was very happy to buy those two volumes, by the way, in the mid-70s, with part of the $20 my grandmother gave me when she won a lottery. I suspect I also bought the compilation cassette of “Ripper ’76”, but that is another story. I wish somebody else I know would now win the lottery.)

I loved that melancholy story with its strange imagery, weird plants and animals, the fellow who could not sleep, the others condemned to sleep for longer and longer periods, with everything running down. I still rate it among the best stories I have read.

Later, I read “The Assassination Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As A Downhill Motor Race” in Decade: The 1960s, edited by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison, which is a reference to Alfred Jarry’s “The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race”. Probably just because I could, I wrote a story called “The murder of Father Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin considered as the single men’s Olympics Luge final” (here it is). I am not JG Ballard nor was meant to be, and so no doubt writing this was absurdly audacious.

I have read a lot of Ballard since. I think that my story was written not really as a Ballard homage, but it did take me back to those anthologies that I would hunt down in my local library, and that would strangely pop up in my local newsagents, or even at Target or K Mart. I still have vivid memories of hours scouring library shelves, lying in bed late at night reading when everyone else was asleep and – just reading. So much joy. I guess in some way all of my writing is some sort of reaching out distant fingers to those days, creating traces to dead writers – even the process of writing, when it works, when it is good (the process, that is, I make no judgment about what I produce), and getting lost in that flow is maybe the closest I come these days to the absorption of childhood and adolescent reading. Certainly I no longer obtain that pleasure from reading itself. C’est la vie.



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