J.G. Ballard

Flamingo (Harper-Collins, London) 2000

Lawrence Russell

cell call from an unknown lover

Yes, it's good... yes, better than Cocaine Nights... yes, very similar, basically a reprise... setting? Southern France, Cote d'Azur, hi-tech industrial park called Eden-Olympia... yes, the usual cast of Ballard misfits in an idealized closed-system reality... still reinventing his childhood Shanghai prison camp trauma... you know he went to Cannes to see Cronenberg's movie... Crash... read that on the Net someplace... so he must've made notes, wrote it up as his new novel... no, no, it's smooth I'm saying... way better than Cocaine Nights... he imposes the film noir narrative onto his surrealist ethos more effectively... yes, it's a post-modern detective mystery wherein the protagonist is essentially hunting himself.

Super-Cannes (Winnie: Helmut Newton)Sex? You bet. Kinky? Of course... J.G.'s world-view is theatre. The main guy, Paul, is a middle-aged Englishman with a bum knee, wears a leg brace... he's low-tech, a deviant Oedipus from the industrial age... with a sexy young junkie wife who goes lesbo on him... while he locks and loads with a voluptuous freebooter realtor called Frances... gets to live in a deco villa, drive around in a 50's Jag... you can see the movie, right? Is J.G. deliberately writing scenarios? I say: is there any other way to write? No, I don't see it as a corruption. Too bad he doesn't make the complete leap, abandon the hardcover novel altogether, go virtual... yes, the Net. The non-linear logic of Ballard is ideal for the Net.

Of course my copy is a lst ed hardcover... no, it isn't signed... bookseller said they didn't get any signed copies... why? Why do I care if I think books are an anachronism? Hey, call me sentimental... maybe I want to sell it to another sentimentalist some day... like you, baby... no, you will like it. .. you like Helmut Newton, don't you? Who's the bad guy? The shrink, who else? Court psychiatrist for Eden-Olympia called Penrose... listen to this, listen: As (Penrose) flexed his legs and openly displayed his heavy thigh muscles it occurred to (Paul) that psychiatry might be the last refuge of the bully... is that witty or what? Yeah, he's another deviant game-player like Vaughan in Crash... remember Vaughan's bisexual crash-theatre? Penrose also organizes, stages street theatre... ratissages, Ballard calls them... gang of Eden-Olympia execs dress up in leather, descend into Cannes at night in their black Mercedes sedans, engage in vigilante actions... beat up pimps, hookers, druggies, dealers, street bums... why? Sort of primal therapy... what... is Penrose based on R.D. Laing? Why do you say that? Laing wasn't primal, just Glaswegian... he died in St. Tropez... no, I didn't know that... Laing... it's a possibility, I guess. Was he shot?

The ending? You don't want to know... it's irrelevant anyway... all the insight comes through the conversations, thoughts... Ballard's an anarchist... like you, baby, like me... remember the Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hurst? You got it -- your fascism or mine. Death to the pigs, baby.

e-mail memo: research to production

He's the main suspect. We've tracked him using the cell-phone logs. Mexico City, Belfast, Glasgow, San Francisco. The attached transcript is of a call he made on Palo Alto Drive, probably en-route from the airport. Notice the obsession with the English writer J.G. Ballard, a social deviant whom the C.I.A. classified as a pornographer in 1970 following the attempted publication of The Atrocity Exhibition, a work notable for its crude innuendos against Ronald Reagan and other members of the American aristocracy. There's a pattern here -- the intercepted cell call he made from the Pyramid of the Sun outside Mexico City mentions Ballard. The call from the Necropolis cemetery in Glasgow mentions Ballard. The call from Palo Alto mentions Ballard.

You'll find the plot of this Super Cannes novel interesting. It hasn't been published in the States yet. An English doctor employed by a multi-national tech park in the south of France goes nuts, takes a rifle, shoots a bunch of CEOs and related personnel, is replaced by a young female doctor whose middle-aged husband decides to investigate the motive behind the crime, develops a deep sympathy for the killer... see the connection?

I think we can work Ballard into our documentary. We can reconstruct the movements of the suspect as he penetrates the Valley. Apple Computers... World Com... Hewlett Packard... The lecture at Stanford University on "The New Voyeurism"... his careless tour through Silicon Valley in a vintage '72 Buick Riviera 2-door hardtop... a low-tech protest in a high-tech psychopathology. This passage was underlined in the copy of Super Cannes found in the suspect's car: "The Twentieth Century ended with its dreams in ruins. The notion of the community as a voluntary association of enlightened citizens has died forever. We realize how suffocatingly humane we've become, dedicated to moderation and the middle way. The suburbanization of the soul has overrun our planet like the plague."

e-mail: production to research

Sounds good, baby. The PBS Network is interested... and I think we can sell it easily to the Brits... BBC Panorama, Sky TV. One of them will bite. "In the reductive universe, life imitates art."

Do we name the suspect?

By the way, your e-mail sounds like a review for Super Cannes. I'm dying to read it.

© LR 10/2000


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