Want to read

The problem with being a regular reader of Literary Review, TLS, LRB, et al, is that I am constantly aware of a great number of new books that pique my interest. This may not sound like a problem, but it is when one is trying also to write. And has no more room for additional books unless I make moving to somewhere larger a priority. However, it's also an advantage that, through these reviews I also get a snapshot of the vast range of books currently being published.

Having read Mary Kenny's review of Tim Rombinson's genre-defying/straddling 'Connemara - A Little Gaelic Kingdom', I feel I have been treated to a taste of Celtic mythology, geology, geography, literature, and history. I must get a copy because it evokes a yearning for Yeats' Bee loud glades, the Lake Isle of Innisfree, no matter how cliched. I was given a tour of Connemara in 2001, when myself and my sisters went to visit our aunts and uncles in Mayo. My Dad never returned, not even for a week. I was bowled over by its beauty; its 'melancholy magic', and wondered why my Dad hadn't returned to this most idyllic of landscapes. It was simple, really, it just didn't represent the same to him, who had grown up there. It is all too easy to fall in love with the image, whilst ignoring what are often harsh realities.

One such author of whom this could be said to be true, if a new biography is to be believed, is JG Ballard.

John Baxter's 'The Inner Man: The Life of JG Ballard', claims the late author was a woman beater, alcoholic, liar, bully, racist, plagiarist, and then some. Ballard's carefully crafted image, it says, was just that: crafty-ed. No mere avuncular figure to Will Self and Iain Sinclair, he was less a prophet and more a janus-faced monster.

I could never quite get on with Ballard's work, although one short story, The Subliminal Man (1961), has remained with me. The image I had of him through this story, and articles on him, was that of an eery prophet of the madness of late capitalism; the single father shackled to the hallway pram in his Shepperton terrace. Yet is it too hard to
imagine that he was more likely to have been a bully and a kind avuncular figure? That he may have lied, but compensated this with his commitment to hyper-reality? The beating of his partner? I don't know.

What happens when the carefully secured veil of a persona is snatched away is usually disgust - they weren't who I/we were led led to believe they were. Yet who is to say that he wasn't himself, or himselves? Do we not all have work personas, or 'brands'?


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