The Inner Man: The Life of J G Ballard by John Baxter - review by Sam Leith

Sam Leith

The Adman Cometh

The Inner Man: The Life of J G Ballard

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 377pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

Not long after J G Ballard’s death, I was exchanging emails with Mike Moorcock, one of Ballard’s oldest and best friends. The avuncular old gent at whose feet Will Self and Iain Sinclair sat, Mike warned, was a carefully managed fiction.

Well, John Baxter’s book firmly sees off that avuncular old gent – and how. The Ballard who emerges from it is a drunk, a woman-beater, a liar, a humbug, a borderline plagiarist, a self-publicist, a bully, a philistine, a racist and a misogynist. Much of the work is expressly or implicitly dismissed as second rate, too: the productions of an adman rather than an artist.

The contours of the established legend – as promoted by said adman – are well known: the childhood in Japanese-occupied Shanghai; the death of his wife, Mary, while his children were young; the New Worlds years, with Ballard ‘Merlin to Michael Moorcock’s Arthur’; the 9am glasses of scotch;

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