13.9.11

Review: John Baxter's J. G. Ballard Biography

The Inner Man received with skepticism
Where's the author? J. G. Ballard's writing room in Shepperton.
The first reviews of John Baxter's biography of J. G. Ballard are not altogether positive:
John Baxter's The Inner Man, the first biography since Ballard's death in 2009, sets out to challenge the idea that his darker impulses were restricted to his writings. Ballard, he contends, was a "master of self-promotion" who cultivated his affable public image in order to disguise a "troubled personality". He was bitter, resentful, harboured odd sexual proclivities, and on at least one occasion in the early 1970s, struck his girlfriend, Claire Walsh.

This last allegation – attributed to the writer Michael Moorcock, who knew the couple – is disturbing, and should give pause to any reader of Ballard. But Baxter's wider argument, that his subject was a slippery manipulator whose equable persona was wholly at odds with his true character, is unconvincing. There is no evidence here, for instance, to suggest Ballard was anything other than a loving and supportive father. (He raised his three children alone, after the death of his wife Mary in 1964, and they have spoken warmly of him.) [Read More]

Writing in The Observer, Robert McCrum offers a similar appraisal. [Read more]

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