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The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard by J. G. Ballard

A Man of Extinction: J.G. Ballard’s Distinctive Cast of Mind

A review by Nicholas Fraser

(Editor's note: Due to the recent release of The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard in trade paperback, we offer you this review by Nicholas Fraser. This review, courtesy of Harper's Magazine originally ran in the Review-a-Day program November 6, 2009.)

For a long time, the spirit of pinched traditionalism pervaded postwar British culture. Writers such as Angus Wilson and C. P. Snow vied with one another to reproduce old-fashioned narratives, upholding the values of gentility via the tired means of drawing-room comedies or novels of manners. In the tabloid press, violence was freely described, but it remained localized, confined to gory particulars. Something must have appeared attractive about this culture of self-imposed restraint, but it was hard for writers to confront with any confidence the contemporary condition of the human race.

Sometime in the 1960s, however, a rawer Britain emerged. One way out of dying Britishness was ribaldry or irony, and at this the novelist...

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