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Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008

December 20, 2012

“It’s extremely difficult for people to remake themselves, particularly if they’ve got husbands and wives, jobs, children. It’s very, very difficult to throw everything up and embark on a completely new reappraisal of yourself. But, I think, sooner or later, all of us have to do that. Mostly I think we do it vicariously, by reading novels, by going to films and so on. We allow others to be our deputies in making some kind of radical shift, stealing a million dollars from a bank or whatever it may be. But I think we all feel a powerful need to make this change, to rediscover who we really are and what our real assignment is.” — Ballard, from his 2000 interview with John Gray.

J.G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was a businessman. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg. His memoir Miracles of Life was published in 2008. J.G. Ballard died in 2009.

This book was edited by Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara.

Simon Sellars says: “Edited by myself and Dan O’Hara, the book collects 44 conversations including his first published interview, with George MacBeth in 1967, and one of his last, a 2008 interview with James Naughtie. Other contributors include Eduardo Paolozzi, Jon Savage, Will Self, David Cronenberg, Mark Dery, Richard Kadrey, Iain Sinclair, John Gray, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Toby Litt and Hari Kunzru. Each interview includes a brief introduction from either myself or Dan, and the book’s title is taken from a 1984 chat with Thomas Frick, in which Ballard says: ‘Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born. That whole private mythology, in which I believe totally, is a collaboration between one’s conscious mind and those obsessions that, one by one, present themselves as stepping-stones.’ Given that, to a certain extent, Ballard gestated his own obsessions in the interview situation before birthing them in his fiction, ‘extreme metaphors’ seemed the perfect title for our collection.

It’s been a very great privilege to ‘collaborate’ posthumously with Ballard and I hope he would have been pleased with the result. Included are some rarely seen interviews, and some appearing in English for the first time. The interviews are drawn from a rich variety of sources: everything from mainstream newspapers to obscure fanzines, from commercial magazines to blogs and websites, and transcripts from TV and radio. We’ve tried to cover every phase of Ballard’s career (since 1967, at least) including novels, short stories, movies and the various genres Ballard moved through, and hope the book illuminates your favorite Ballardian trajectory. Aside from that, even if you’re not a fan of Ballard’s fiction, I trust there will still be something to enjoy, for it’s my contention that Ballard is one of the greatest philosophers of the post-war technological age, surpassing McLuhan and Toffler, and that this is readily apparent in the brace of interviews he gave from 1967–1974.”

Text via Ballardian

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