Miracles of Life: An Autobiography by J G Ballard - review by Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Strange Reality

Miracles of Life: An Autobiography


4th Estate 278pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In the week before he left his public school to go up to Cambridge for his medical degree, J G Ballard reports:

My last act ... took place in the basement kitchen in North B house, when I skinned and then boiled a rabbit. I was determined to expose the skeleton, wire it together and use it as a combined mascot and table ornament. I filled the entire building with steam and a disagreeably potent stench. The housemaster came down to stop me, but backed off when he saw that I was on an intense mission of my own. Why the rabbit skeleton was so important I can't remember.

There, compressed, is a quintessential chunk of Ballard. In tone, it is delivered as you might a cheerful reminiscence on the Parkinson show. There's a dance of humour about it, too: you probably can't really fill an entire building with steam by boiling a rabbit, and you'd expect the smell

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