J.G. Ballard

Look up the word Ballardian in The Collins English Dictionary and you’ll find this:


  1. of James Graham Ballard (1930–2009), the British novelist, or his works
  2. resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments

His novel Crash  (1973) -which in 1996 David Cronenberg made into a movie – was turned down by a publisher’s reader with the infamous words: ‘This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.’

Oh, My… What a rejection!

Ballard’s work is hard to classify into one genre. His early career (in the 1960’s) marked by such novels as The Drowned World, The Burning World and The Crystal World is apocalyptic –or post-apocaliptic fiction.

His epic novel Empire of The Sun (1984), an autobiographical/ war novel was later filmed by Steven Speilberg and followed in 1991 by the sequence The Kindness of Women.

It was in his later novels that he turned to psychological thrillers: Cocaine Nights (1996), Super Cannes (2000) and asserted his mastery, in Millennium (2003) and Kingdom Come in (2006)

The settings of his novels are as varied as his genres. He takes us to Gibraltar, Cannes, Japanese-occupied Shanghai, Singapore, Heathrow Airport.   Yet, he managed to write all his novels at this desk in his home in Shepperton, England.

Writers' rooms: JG Ballard

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

Ballard was known to be ahead of his times. He certainly was when he wrote this quote:

Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it.

The first drafts of my novels have all been written in longhand and then I type them up on my old electric. I have resisted getting a computer because I distrust the whole PC thing. I don’t think a great book has yet been written on computer. The Guardian

What are your thoughts? Do you have any rejection stories to share?


21 thoughts on “J.G. Ballard

  1. Carol – Ballard was certainly one of the most interesting and unusual thinkers in the world of writing. In my opinion, writers such as Ballard may not be to everyone’s taste. But they certainly make literature more vibrant, and we can learn from their creativity. As for rejection? Well, I’ve never been told I’m beyond psychiatric help – well, not yet, anyway… 😉


  2. I’ve never received at rejection as fantastic as that! How cool to be able to pull that out and show it off later. Of course, it probably wasn’t so cool when he first got it. Only became that AFTER he was published. 😉

    Funny to see your post in my reader right now, because I was just about to break for lunch and read more of Missi’s Dating Adventures. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it. Makes me grateful to be an old married woman. Phew!


  3. I admire your passion for writing….enjoyed reading about the Dali exposition…you really look at everything with a writer’s mind….I guess you always have a story in your head when you see or experience something…and then you share it with your writing world….thus creating and contributing to the community.

    I feel pretty brain dead right now….sleep very poorly….the realization that my relationship with Chris is not expanding to greener pastures really hit me during our skiing excursion….the brain knows but the body lags behind and deals with stomach knots and inner turmoil and robs me of sleep….the fear of a recurring depressive episode looms large. Hope that being with Matteo will redirect my thoughts to a healthier plane.

    And that is my saga….not boring but torturous.


    Sent from my iPad


  4. Interesting! I have found my writing feels definitely more from the body when I don’t write on a computer, but it takes so much time to type it all in and then the editing process- I think it’s just a matter of getting used to the technology and learning to bring just as much greatness through that way. You always have such interesting reveals about the writers you write about, Carol!


    • Oh, thanks, Diahann.
      Hand writing is a different experience. I’ve heard that using the motions of the hand stimulates other parts of the brain.I tend to write everything on the computer. I know what you mean about transferring hand-written material to the computer. It can be long and tedious but it can also be an opportunity to edit as well 🙂


      • Lol-the time I spend editing as is- perhaps the solution is to improve my handwriting and get to a place where I can hire an assistant to type my words in for me. Your reminder in comment, however, is a good nudge to go back to doing morning pages. Thanks.


  5. Enjoyed this reflection of another writer once again. To be told, you need psychiatric help would really put me into another anxiety attack. But it mean be truth, all the same. I don’t really care if people think I am weird. I know I am and so I can just agree. Hugs.


    • There seem to be so many successful writers who got rejected. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected thirty times. And it’s not only writers. The Beatles were told that guitar music was on its way out,Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper he worked at because they thought he lacked imagination.
      So, the moral of the story is that we’re in good company:)


  6. I remember reading and then rereading cocaine nights while I lived in a slightly surreal expat community in Spain. It is probably one of my favorite books from that period of my life.
    Great post:)


    • Thanks, Frank…Going down memory lane is always a pleasant experience. Your enjoyment of Cocaine Nights was likely intensified by the fact that you were living in a surreal community. Ballard was greatly influenced by the surrealistic movement 🙂


  7. I agree with the quote that its easy to write a book and not so selling it! The real pains start when the author approaches manuscript assessors, agents, publishers…a world filled with those who are only people (with often biased or limited views but they seem to hold quite a bit of power in the industry) – so rejections are painful but they should not deter the author from pursuing sale and distribution…after all, the real test comes within reader markets 😀 we all agree on that I think


  8. Although you may have something when it comes to the use of typewriter or a PC, both physically and financially I can’t do the typewriter bit. Even the electric one would slow me down so much because I type one-handed. I have the PC so it’s there to use. The income won’t sustain a typewriter too.

    The write project I’m working on is my first. I’m quite sure it will be rejected many times. I am hoping that there will be just one publisher that will take the chance with me.

    I haven’t read any of Ballard’s books. He sounds interesting. Next time I go to the used book store I’ll look for him on the shelves.


    • Thank you for your comment.
      Rejection seems to be part of the process, even for great writers (see my comment above).
      I hope for you too that you will find the publisher willing to take a chance with you.:)


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