Books And Literature: August 1991
J.G. Ballard – ReSearch Publications
It’s probably not a great surprise if you’ve never heard of author J.G. Ballard here in the United States. The controversial Ballard has been blackballed by virtually every major publishing company in the States. Fortunately, ReSearch, in their continuing effort to enlighten and bring valuable authors and literature to light, has published this comprehensive study of Ballard and many of his important works.
Writing since the sixties, Ballard still remains “cult” writer, far off the path of “mainstream” works that clutter the New York Times best seller list. Writing in the genre of science fiction, Ballard has taken a new approach to the integration of man and machinery, seeing the two as equal parts of society in this so called “modern” world. Man and machine are married, and the consummation of that relationship is where Ballard’s writing begins, exploring all the possibilities of this unusual union. Science fiction becomes science fact.
The book begins with two interviews; one with Ballard and another with Martin Bax, a close associate of Ballard and publisher of Ambit, and an experimental magazine on which Ballard also works. These interviews give initial insight into the mind and method of Ballard; as much as is possible with any artist. Ballard seems, outwardly, the typical family man, having raised his children on his own after his wife died. Living at home and caring for his family gave him the time to write and cultivate his creative genius, having written some of the most startling and provocative literature of the past thirty years. According to Ballard, “unless you’ve got a really powerful imagination (it doesn’t matter what the form of medium is), you will have nothing.” Ballard certainly has something and is at not loss for imaginative narrative and overall plot.
This is witnessed in the second and third parts of the book which contain excerpts of Ballard’s fiction and non-fiction. Ballard’s writing is complex, full of long sentences, and complicated medical and technical terms. This is not to say that the reader is bogged down by unnecessary jargon, but the language of technology and science are integral parts of Ballard’s stories, emphasizing the technocratic society in which we live and de-emphasizing the humanistic elements that have been major factors in literature up to the twentieth century. Relationships are with cars, planes, or various other machines instead of humans. Intimacy exists between men and the products of a man-made world. The implication of the Industrial Revolution are taken to their fullest extent. After all, aren’t we all astronauts, having once visited Mars and Venus, or having “walked beside Armstrong on the moon?”
The rest of the book contains autobiographical sketches of Ballard, critical interpretations of his work, quotes and some collages that Ballard ran in major magazines. All these give greater depth to the body of work created by Ballard.
This ReSearch book is an informative introduction to Ballard and can be used as a preface to The Atrocity Exhibition, also published by ReSearch, as well as a study of one of the most creative and unrecognized literary minds of this era.
“Were you trying to fly?”
Robert Anton Wilson – The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Volume Three: Nature’s God
Italy, France, England and the American Colonies are the background for this philosophically fictional account of the American Revolution, among other things. This is the latest installment in the Illuminatus saga of the conspiracies that shape the world and the people who control (or are controlled by) them. The roles of religion, politics, technology, economics and overall human behavior are discussed and answers are tentatively provided in an attempt to analyze the empirical world. While intellectually stimulating, Wilson’s bizarre and synchronistic tale conveys not only the theories but also the emotional impact of illumination.
Sigusmundo Celine has just arrived in the New World from Europe as an exile of Italy for a duel he fought there as a youth. He travels to the frontier to live alone, in nature, and explore the reaches of his mind. “A universe without a monarch or a parliament,” he writes in his wilderness diary as he begins to reconcile his experience into a coherent picture of the world. A musician of strong passion and believer in free thought, Celine has witnessed firsthand the scope of the Illuminati’s plan, the Freemasonic counter-conspiracy, and the complexity of the interconnectedness of life.
In England, Sir John Babcock, a brother of Sigusmundo’s is the Craft (speculative freemasonry) and Whig (liberal) in the British Parliament, not only challenge the conventions of politics, but also the dogmatism of the Royal scientific Society. His wife, Maria, writes a book, A Moistness in the Wind, similarly challenging the prevailing religious dogma, asking “…whether or not God had a penis, and, if not, what was the source of the attitude of reverence that the Christian clergy exhibited toward that organ,” referring not only to the masculine pronouns used to express “God,” but also to why the leaders of the church had to, by definition, possess a male sexual organ.
The reader especially gets to know Nature’s God through Seamus Muaden, once an outlaw from Ireland, now colonel in Washington’s patriot army. Seamus’ exposure to Washington, Jefferson, and Paine and their fanaticism for freedom and liberty, along with his own history of British subjugation, sets him on a journey towards understanding of the world through direct experience and subjective inference of the Laws of Nature and mysticism.
In Wilson’s profound and erudite manner of iconoclasm, he brazenly calls into question much of what are accepted of assumed facts about past and contemporary societies, presenting perspectives of cynicism, idealism, pragmatism, and spiritualism with irony, paradox, and at time utter confusion and nihility of human condition.
As with his other books, Nature’s God is a beautifully crafted synthesis of ideology and opinion; intellect and emotion; permanence and relativity. Though found in the science fiction section, Wilson’s Illuminatus series is a highly enjoyable, thought provoking metaphor (or is it literal?) written with insight, humor and tenacity that is a compelling as it is important. Robert Anton Wilson is a voice of our times and culture, and has been for some time, have written more than twenty books, including Cosmic Triggor (Vol. 1 and 2), Sex and Drugs: A Journey Beyond Limits, Ishtar Rising, The Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, and, and with Robert Shea, The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
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