The death of J.G. Ballard cannot pass without note. As a young man his books were incredibly influential on me, with their intensely symbolic Max Ernst-like landscapes, pathologically driven anti-heroes, and their willful coupling of rabid sexuality and technological fetishism.
But the enigmatic presence of the terrace city, with its crumbling galleries and internal courts encrusted by the giant thistles and wire moss, seemed a huge man-made artefact which militated against the super-real naturalism of the delta. However, the terrace city, like the delta, was moving backwards in time, the baroque tracery of the serpent deities along the friezes dissolving and being replaced by the intertwined tendrils of the moss-plants, the pseudo-organic forms made by man in the image of nature reverting to their original.
For example, I particularly remember reading Concrete Island and being dumbfounded by both the simplicity of the idea and the way Ballard was able to develop something so chilling, so plausible, from the mundanity of the initial premise. Even now I still occasionally think of Maitland as I negotiate motorway intersections:
Far from wanting this girl to help him escape from the island, he was using her for motives he had never before accepted, his need to be freed of the past, from his childhood, his wife and friends, with all their affections and demands, and to rove forever within the empty city of his mind.
The Drowned World, The Drought, Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition, High Rise, Concrete Island, Super Cannes—to name but a few of my own personal favourites—all powerful novels that spoke in an utterly unique and unflinching contemporary voice:
Helen knelt across me, elbows pressed into the seat on either side of my head. I lay back, feeling the hot, scented vinyl. My hands pushed her skirt around her waist so that I could see the curve of her hips. I moved her slowly against me, pressing the shaft of my penis against her clitoris. Elements of her body, her square kneecaps below my elbows, her right breast jacked out of its brassiere cup, the small ulcer that marked the lower arc of her nipple, were framed against the cabin of the car. As I pressed the head of my penis against the neck of her uterus, in which I could feel a dead machine, her cap, I looked at the cabin around me. This small space was crowded with angular control surfaces and rounded sections of human bodies interacting in unfamiliar junctions, like the first act of homosexual intercourse inside an Apollo capsule.
Leaving the last words to Mr. Ballard himself:
We wait here, at the threshold of time and space, celebrating the identity and kinship of the particles within our bodies with those of the sun and stars, of our brief private times with the vast periods of the galaxies, with the total unifying time of the cosmos…