Millennium People. A Novel by J.G.Ballard

A poet of the perverse, sad, twisted and deranged, the late J.G. Ballard is a genius – well, in my scorecard he is. This post-millennium and even post 9/11 Chelsea suburban anarchy novel is a gulp of fresh air, sharp, thought-provoking, full of perennial wisdom quotes.

Chelsea Marina burns, as its middle class residents of law abiding salariat of lawyers, doctors, accountants and university professors gradually turn into radical arsonists, gallery bombmakers and indiscriminate murderers. Finding the meaning of life in acts of meaningless violence and cruelty, a revolt against nothing, nil, zero, zilch.

Brilliant and just as thoughtful as as a much earlier Crash. I just long to see this one in a camera frame – and preferably, directed by David Cronenberg.

“I'm a fund-raiser for the Royal Academy. It's an easy job. All those Ceos think art is good for their souls.”

“Not so?”

“It rots their brains. Tate Modern, the Royal Academy, the Hayward… they're Walt Disney for the middle classes.”


Super-Cannes: A Novel by J.G. Ballard

Dark and violent, focused on hate, intolerance, and madness, Super-Cannes reveals the other face of corporate psychosis – once in a while you see a newsreel about a man with a shotgun or an assault rifle on a killing spree in a cosy air-conditioned 24 hour-lit paradise of an office building, and you think, whoa, another asshole in town – but in Ballard's world, oh boy, that man doesn't seem an asshole at all.

Sheer madness is the new cure – the trendy senior exec way of letting go of work and career stress by hurting and even killing people in a rogue vigilante style, picking on immigrants and the poor, all in a well organized project management way, with meticulous planning, coordination, role play, video documenting and all – practiced by the top brass of a huge business part on the French Riviera.

The novel has its twists, so I'll avoid spoilers – but somehow, the subject is quite close to J.G.'s High-Rise, as recently reviewed here. Two books by Ballard in a row was a way for this to become too obvious – still, it was quite a read.

'The dream of a leisure society was the great twentieth-century delusion. Work is the new leisure. Talented and ambitious people work harder than they have ever done, and for longer hours. They find their only fulfillment through work. The men and women running successful companies need to focus their energies on the task in front of them, and for every minute of the day. The last thing they want is recreation.'

'God?' Halder smiled into his elegant hands. 'The people here have gone beyond God. Way beyond. God had to rest on the seventh day.'

'So how do they keep sane?'

'Not so easy. The have one thing to fall back on.'

'And that is?'

'Haven't you guessed, Mr. Sinclair?' Halder spoke softly, but with genuine concern, as if all our time together, the extended seminar he had been conducting with full visual aids, had been wasted on this obtuse Englishman. 'Madness – that's all they have, after working sixteen hours a week, seven days a week. Going mad is their only way of staying sane.'

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard

Surprisingly enough, J.G. Ballard's High-Rise lost virtually none of its value in almost 40 years since its first publication in 1975. Indeed, this is a rare quality for a fiction novel, depicting in rather gruesome detail how a huge 40-storey apartment block of some two thousand people went violent, primitive, tribal, and cannibalistic. Lights go off, heat goes off, garbage chutes and elevators no longer work, and that's when bats, knives, metal chairs, home appliances and even bare hands come into play.
For an avid J.G. Ballard reader like yours truly (not sure that I deserve this “avid” description though, as I've read less than, I dunno, 15% of his books), it's encouraging to see how certain themes migrate through Ballard's body of work – from perverse mutilation of cars and limbs in his iconic Crash into no less exciting vandalism of a communal home and both mental and physical rape of its residents by its residents – or the air of the mass hysteria and clansmanship so similar to Ballard's last novel Kingdom Come, another must-read.

Googling to get some background info as I always do, I realized there is a rumor (not confirmed by imdb though) that Kill List's Ben Wheatley is set to make High-Rise into a motion picture as early as in 2014. Despite the disappointing Sightseers, if indeed Ben the hammer horror man takes upon himself with this task, this flick will be on top of my watchlist from the same day.

As both these men, Wheatley and J.G., know too well how to fill the atmosphere with acute anticipation of violence – and followed by actual violence. Scary.
A few people leaned on their railings and watched Laing without expression, and he had a sudden image of the two thousand residents springing to their balconies and hurling down at him anything to hand, inundating Laing beneath a pyramid of wine bottles and ashtrays, deodorant aerosols and contraceptive wallets.