Wednesday, 21 October 2009

For the last few days I've been a 'grass widower'. Odd term, that, which the Rev Ebenezer Brewer will doubtless clear up for me when I look it up in his amazing Dictionary Of Phrase And Fable. (I tend not to google such things but prefer to look em up in my own more than adeqate library, inveterate bookman that I am…)

So, left to my own devices, I've been getting round finally to reading various books piled up on my shelves, including J. G. Ballard's last fiction, Kingdom Come. I'm two thirds of the way through, and it seems to me he remained on absolutely cracking form. (The very last book, his poignant memoir, Miracles Of Life, is a quite superb swansong.) I've read almost all Jim's books now, in the order they appeared, more or less, and consider him a true original, one of the most readable and significant English language authors of the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Way back during the paperback boom of the 1960s we were both published by the wonderful Panther Books, and had several convivial meetings, thanks to a couple of editors there. He signed my copy of his 1967 book The Disaster Area thus: Alexis, From one disaster area to another, Jim. A friendly and humorous man whose work had both style and substance. I wish we'd met again and/or corresponded more than very occasionally over the years. But I was pleased to have introduced Jim, via my first book about her, to the work of Jean Rhys, whom he said he intended to read 'Pronto'. This was nine years ago now. A few weeks back, I heard his quietly ironic, slightly drawling voice again – extracts from various old radio interviews: it only served to remind one what a fine and prescient writer we'd lost.

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