Jonathan Lethem takes a solid look at the legacy left by JG Ballard in this excerpt from the intro to a coming book of short stories. I’d buy it.
A writer viewed as radical is rarely also so entrenched in formal reserve as was Ballard. Much of the energy in his fiction comes from the pull of his prophecy against the dutiful, typically middle-class English politesse of his characters, the unradicalism of their attitudes toward one another and themselves. In the “Vermilion Sands” stories, scattered through the first two decades of his career, much of the dialogue might be taken from a Barbara Pym novel, if instead of small-town vicarages Pym’s milieu had been a crumbling desert resort inhabited by aging celebrities.
Ultimately, Ballard is simply a master story writer — the maker of unforgettable artifacts in words, each as absolute and perplexing as sculptures unviewable from a single perspective. In this book of 98 stories, there are at least 30 you can spend a lifetime returning to, to wander and wonder around. Even the lesser pieces are invaluable, because they support rather than diminish the masterworks and because Ballard’s hand is always unmistakable.