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Iterative Architecture: a Ballardian Text

Author: • Jul 23rd, 2009 •

Category: academia, alternate worlds, America, architecture, death of affect, deep time, features, film, inner space, invisible literature, Lead Story, memory, New Worlds, pastiche, perception, Shanghai, short stories, time travel, WWII

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

‘Iterative Architecture: a Ballardian Text’

by Brian Baker

Instructions/ Introduction

Readers hoping to solve the mystery of J.G. Ballard’s ‘The Beach Murders’ may care to approach it in the form of a card game. Some of the principal clues have been alphabetized, some left as they were found, scrawled on to the backs of a deck of cards. Readers are invited to recombine the order of the cards to arrive at a solution.* Obviously any number of solutions is possible, and the final answer to the mystery lies forever hidden.

* You may find scissors a useful accessory

Brian Baker, 2009

Originally published in 21: Journal of Contemporary and Innovative Fiction, Issue 1 (autumn/winter 2008/09). Reproduced with permission.


Clubs ♣

Architecture (A♣). Physical space is crucial to the Ballardian imaginary, from the eponymous tower block in High-Rise (1975) to the ‘gated communities’ and science parks of Super-Cannes (2000) and Millennium People (2003). Counterposed to images of flight and transcendence found in many of his stories, the urban environment is often an imprisoning space. In his article ‘J.G. Ballard and the Architectures of Control’, Dan Lockton argues that ‘One of the many ‘obsessions’ running through Ballard’s work is what we might characterise as the effect of architecture on the individual’, while complicating his argument by acknowledging the mutual implication of inner and outer, psychological and environment: this blurring being Ballard’s method of ‘reflecting the participants’ mental state in the environment itself’. [1] Lockton also suggests that ‘[t]he architecture […] acts as a structure for the story’ in locating the protagonist and ‘plot’ firmly in an ‘obsessively explained and expounded’ architecture. I would like to develop this argument by suggesting that the informing structural principles of Ballard’s short stories, particularly that of the period beginning with ‘The Terminal Beach’ (1964) and embracing The Atrocity Exhibition (1969) but also later short fictions, are spatial and iterative: geometry and algebra.

Ballardian (2♣). On the BBC Radio 4 arts review programme Front Row, presenter Mark Lawson, in introducing a discussion of Ballard’s autobiography Miracles of Life, suggested that ‘he’s one of the few writers to have become an adjective — Ballardian’. [2] An author who attains the status of an adjective runs the risk of reduction to culturally received ideas of their work (often erroneous and masking the texts themselves) or, worse still, it makes them the object of caricature or burlesque. To become an adjective suggests a certain kind of cultural visibility (or even cultural power), but also indicates a possible ossification through repetition: another reduction, to a set of representative images, ideas and tropes. In this case, ‘Ballardian’ signifies a recurrent set of narrative structures, characters, and particularly iconic places and things, many of which were identified by David Pringle in his groundbreaking critical work of the 1970s:

Such things as concrete weapons ranges, dead fish, abandoned airfields, radio telescopes, crashed space-capsules, sand dunes, empty cities, […] beaches, fossils, broken juke-boxes, crystals, lizards, multi-storey car-parks, dry lake-beds, medical laboratories, drained swimming-pools, […] high-rise buildings, predatory birds, and low-flying aircraft. [3]

To assert a ‘Ballardian’ imaginary is to suggest a limitation to his work, a finite set of materials out of which a range of texts are worked (and re-worked). It is a critical commonplace to note the ‘obsessional’ return to key images, objects and concerns in Ballard’s work – from emptied swimming pools to a desire to transcend time – that could have reduced his texts to a set of symptoms of an identifiable pathology (and did, in the notorious judgement on Crash by a publisher’s reader). At best, Ballard’s ‘obsessional’ return to a limited creative palette can be used to articulate a consistent and particular vision of the world – what Mark Lawson, characterising ‘Ballardian’, called a ‘way of looking at the world and describing it’ – or is, at worst, a boring and repetitive re-working of the same old material by a ‘minor’ (genre) writer who lacks a wider engagement with human life. ‘Ballardian’ is perhaps best understood (a) as a symptom of genre, and the repetition-with-difference pattern of much genre fiction; and (b) as an effect of Ballard’s structural reliance on iteration.

Confetti Royale (9♣). The original title of the story collected in the 2001 Collected Short Stories as ‘The Beach Murders’ is ‘Confetti Royale’, signifying its intertextual relation to Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (1953) and the Cold War spy or espionage narrative. The impenetrable motivations of the characters in ‘Confetti Royale’ – two Russian agents, on CIA operative, an ‘absconded State Department cipher chief’ and ‘American limbo dancer’ (whose actions entirely exceed this belittling characterization) – both anticipate the labyrinthine logic of Le Carré’s espionage fiction and compromises the more straightforward and linear adventures of Fleming’s secret agent. There has been some recent speculation on the Ballardian website about the connection between Ballard and Fleming, particularly with regard to The Wind from Nowhere (Ballard’s 1962 ‘disowned’ apprentice novel) and its megalomaniacal industrialist Hardoon, who could be seen as a an analogue of the Bond super-villains who seek the chimera of ‘world domination’. [4] While ‘Confetti Royale’ is a playful iteration of espionage fiction, its card-game structure raises to a formal principle the centrality of the game between Bond and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. Here, the 27 textual elements (Introduction plus 26 alphabeticized titled paragraphs) are strewn as ‘confetti’, compromising the ordering principles of the baccarat tables or Cold War ideologies.

Diamonds Are Forever (6♣). The 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) was the first to be made without Sean Connery. The opening 15 minutes is suffused by a self-reflexivity which marks out the problematic nature of generic repetition-with-difference. The new Bond, George Lazenby, looks directly at the camera at the end of the pre-credits sequence, when the ‘girl’ he has been fighting for drives off, and says ‘This never happened to the other fellah’; the film’s title sequence replays scenes from earlier Bond films; and when Bond ‘resigns’ and clears his office drawer, key objects from earlier films are introduced with aide-memoire musical leitmotifs from previous Bond films overlaid on the soundtrack. Anxiety-provoking difference is suppressed by reference to the recognisable and familiar, even at the risk of disrupting the film diegesis. In 1971, not only did Bond return, but so did Connery. Diamonds Are Forever is Bond’s ‘revenge’ mission for the death, in OHMSS, of Bond’s wife Tracey (the ‘girl’ who escaped him at the beginning), and is largely set in Nixon’s USA. A morally rotten, bloated film (featuring two sadistic homosexual assassins as an index of its gender sensitivities), Diamonds Are Forever’s main location is Las Vegas, the ‘old’ Vegas of the Dunes and the Sands, the excessive, corrupt Vegas of Bugsy Siegel and the Mob.

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

Diamonds Are Forever plays the megalomaniacal Blofeld – murderer of Bond’s wife and manipulator of the diamond trade to create a laser-bearing ‘killer’ satellite – against one ‘Willard Whyte’, a helpful billionaire resident of a Las Vegas penthouse suite. This character’s good-ole-boy persona fails to mask the fact that he is a Whyte-washed reiteration of a real-life Las Vegas resident, Howard Hughes, who in real life more nearly approximated Blofeld. Unlike Fleming’s Casino Royale (1953) and the 2006 film version of this Bond narrative, where the high-stakes card games function as a trope for ideological conflict and the dangerous fluidity of capital markets and financial flows, Diamonds Are Forever makes little or no play with the casino chronotope. Ballard’s own Las Vegas novel is Hello America (1981), the most generically ‘science fiction’ of his later works. This novel narrates a journey by a European exploratory mission to a depopulated, post-apocalyptic United States, where they find a self-anointed (and self-named) President Charles Manson, who has assumed command of the remainder of America’s nuclear arsenal. Hello America uses the Las Vegas gambling icon of the roulette wheel, rather than the card table, to critique the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction. As Ken Cooper suggests, ‘self-destruction […] is the inevitable payoff of atomic roulette’. [5]

Experimental Fiction (7♣). Ballard’s most formally experimental period lies between ‘The Terminal Beach’ and The Atrocity Exhibition. Although his later novels are iterative in their narrative and textual patterning, they are much closer to ‘mainstream’ literary fiction’s spatial continuity and temporal causality. However, in his short fiction Ballard did return to formally experimental or innovative texts, often playing with textual conventions. ‘The Index’ (1977) consists of just that, ‘the index to the unpublished and perhaps suppressed autobiography of a man who may well have been one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century’, one Henry Rhodes Hamilton, but the mystery of who he was and the status of the text remains unresolved; ‘Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown’ (1976) consists of annotations to the subtitle of the story (‘A discharged Broadmoor patient compiles “Notes Towards A Mental Breakdown”, recalling his wife’s murder, his trial and exoneration’), each word of which is footnoted; and in ‘Answers to a Questionnaire’ (1985) the respondent implies that he has assassinated the second incarnation of Christ in 100 ‘answers’. [6] These texts are organised by absence or ellipsis, the architecture of the stories signifying a missing central element or text that reader must configure or enunciate for herself/himself. Non-linear, spatial in design, Ballard’s later experimental short stories are textual games that posit a foundational enigma, a mystery that the reader must work to decode.

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

ABOVE: Artwork by Jeffrey K. Potter for ‘Memories of the Space Age’ (commissioned for the collection Memories of the Space Age).

Fugue Fiction (5♣). The ‘fugue fictions’ are three connected short stories that Ballard published around the turn of the 1980s: ‘News from the Sun’ (1981), ‘Memories of the Space Age’ (1982) and ‘Myths of the Near Future’ (1982). A close examination of these stories discloses the iterative principle at work even in Ballard’s later texts, where formal fragmentation has given way to more linear narrative models. A paragraph from ‘A Question of Re-Entry’ (1962) pinpoints the shared emphases of these stories:

The implication was that the entire space programme was a symptom of some inner unconscious malaise afflicting mankind, and in particular the Western technocracies, and that the space-craft and satellites had been launched because their flights satisfied certain buried compulsions and desires. [7]

In ‘Memories of the Space Age’, the protagonist Mallory, a doctor in the NASA program, confesses to his unconscious complicity in the first orbital murder, by a borderline-disturbed astronaut named Hinton. This act produced a kind of ‘space-sickness’ of fugue-states and loss of temporal awareness that is centred on Cape Canaveral: ‘he had torn the fabric of time and space, cracked the hour-glass from which time was running’. [8] The fugues experienced by Mallory and the protagonists of the two other stories are a kind of congealing of time, a transcendence of clock time; in ‘News from the Sun’, these fugues are explicitly typed as a return to a pre-lapsarian state of consciousness. In ‘Myth of the Near Future’, the protagonist Sheppard pursues his terminally ill wife to Canaveral, where the time-effect may ultimately revivify her. All three stories are patterned on a triangulation between the protagonist, his wife (or lover), and an antagonist; a fourth figure is present, outside of the primary triangulation, who is either an astronaut or connected to the space program.

‘News from the Sun’: Franklin-Ursula-Slade (Trippett)
‘Memories of the Space Age’: Mallory-Anna-Hinton (Gale Shepley)
‘Myths of the Near Future’: Sheppard-Elaine-Martinsen (Anne Godwin)

The triangulations suggests a geometric/architectural emphasis, but the sense that these three fictions, published in sequence, are reworkings of the same conceptual material and re-deploy the same motifs (flight, the space programme, fugue states and time) signifies their centrality to the Ballardian iterative complex.

Gemini. (4♣) The Space Age is a crucial source for the Ballardian imaginary, from the negotiations of cargo-cult imperialism in ‘A Question of Re-Entry’ (1963) to the assassination of a messianic astronaut in ‘The Object of the Attack’ (1984). The icon of the astronaut is central to the ‘fugue fictions’ and their sense that NASA’s manned space programs were a cosmic transgression, an hubristic leap out of biological time which has catastrophic psychological consequences. Many of Ballard’s texts are centred on Cape Canaveral, from ‘The Illuminated Man’ (1964) (itself later incorporated – reiterated – into The Crystal World (1965)), where time crystallizes, to ‘Memories of the Space Age’ (1982), where the Cape is the epicentre of a kind of ‘space sickness’. However, it is not Apollo imagery – the Moon landings – that regulate Ballard’s Space Age imaginary. His astronauts have orbital trajectories. In ‘The Dead Astronaut’ (1968) and ‘The Cage of Sand’ (1962) orbiting capsules containing dead astronauts form a kind of artificial constellation in the night sky, while the protagonists wait at Canaveral for their orbits to decay. It is not Apollo, but the Mercury and Gemini programs – manned orbital missions that grew in complexity and duration, but stayed within the ambit of Earth – that provide the backdrop for Ballard’s Space Age. This is no New Frontier, no ascension to other planets, but a limited, problematic endeavour.

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

Hearts and Minds (8♣). The title sequence of the 2006 Casino Royale plays with the centrality of the card game and the casino to its narrative. In motion-capture animation (where computer-generated graphics are overlaid on live action), a silhouetted polygon Bond fights, shoots, and is finally shown (in a live-action ‘reveal’) to be Daniel Craig, the ‘new’ Bond. The roulette wheel becomes a sniper-scope target in these graphics, as clubs, diamonds and spades become weapons embedded in the torsos of antagonists, ‘blood’ flowing across the screen from their wounds. Bond is himself ‘cut’ by playing cards in one animated sequence, but is invulnerable; no blood seems to flow there. The interrelationship of the casino, the roulette wheel and the playing card with the neo-colonial adventurism represented by the Bond imaginary invites us to read the film itself as a kind of spectacle or game, masking its ideological premises.

Iterative (3♣). Crucial to the idea of a ‘Ballardian’ text is patterning or what I have suggested as iterability. It would be difficult to deny that Ballard returns to similar ideas, or narrative structures throughout his work: it is the effectiveness of the patterning that is crucial, the combination and re-combination of elements to work through a coherent world that provides Ballard’s texts with imaginative power. David Punter, in Modernity, concurs, stating: ‘What is most significant […] is that Ballard is a repetitive writer, a writer of repetition.’ [9] The first formally ‘iterative’ Ballard short story is ‘The Terminal Beach’ (1964), in which the textual fabric of the story is fragmented, split into 22 sections (21 of them subtitled), echoing the psychological fragmentation of the protagonist Traven (the earliest incarnation of the ‘T-‘ figure who recurs, as ‘Tallis’ or ‘Talbot’ or ‘Trabert’) who can also be found in Ballard’s iterative masterwork, The Atrocity Exhibition. ‘The Terminal Beach’ and particularly the Atrocity Exhibition texts are non-linear and non-causal in terms of narrative; in ‘The Terminal Beach’, the concrete blocks of the nuclear testing site Eniwetok Island form a maze, ‘their geometric regularity and finish [seeming] to occupy more than their own volumes of space, imposing on him a mood of absolute calm and order.’ [10] Here the spatial ordering of the text is more properly geometric rather than algebraic (iterative), but the repetitive, disorienting regularity of the field of blocks is a figure for a space that repeats itself endlessly. This motif can also be found in the more classically dystopian short story ‘The Concentration City’, where the urban ‘build-up’ has no boundary, no end, and a train journey to find its limits returns the protagonist to the starting point is a regressive, looping trajectory; and in the repeated face of Cordobès on the deck of cards placed upon Quimby’s balcony table in ‘Confetti Royale’.

James (10♣). J.G. Ballard’s first names are James Graham. Only in his Crash alter-ego is Ballard ‘James’, a knowing self-implication in that text’s transgressive sexual material; he was ‘Jimmy’ as a boy, ‘Jim’ to his adult friends. The diminutive, ‘Jim’, humanises Ballard, and it is this name which is given to his ‘autobiographical’ selves in Empire of the Sun (1985) and The Kindness of Women (1991). Opposing this is the self-alienated ‘J.G.’, a not-quite nom de plume that masks the ‘real’ Jim Ballard. Ballard’s textual interrogation of unitary subjectivity is reflected in this circulation of names, and the surnames of his protagonists – Sheppard, Maitland, Franklin, Sinclair – are themselves iterative signs. James Bond, by way of contrast, is never ‘Jimmy’, ‘Jim’ or ‘Jamie’: always ‘James’.

Kennedy (J♣). After his assassination in 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s name was given to the Cape where the NASA space program still has its operational base: Canaveral. This naming has now been reversed, but the Space Center still bears JFK’s name. It is Kennedy who is seen to be the ‘author’ of Apollo, giving the political and economic impetus to reach the Moon through the rhetoric of the ‘New Frontier’ and a sustained arms race (symbolically as well as militarily), though it could be argued that it is Lyndon Johnson who was most committed to the American space program in the 1950s and 1960s. Kennedy’s assassination is, in some sense, a ‘ground zero’ for contemporary American culture, and he looms large in the algebra of icons that Ballard constructs in the period of The Atrocity Exhibition, along with the president’s widow, Jackie. The implication of glamour, celebrity and violent death is embodied in the icon of JFK; in ‘The Assassination of John F. Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race’, a key text in The Atrocity Exhibition, the moment of assassination also becomes a fatal game.

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

‘Continuously creating his own image’: J.G. Ballard self-portrait, double exposure, 1950 (photo via RE/Search Publications).

Lunghua (Q♣). With the publication of Ballard’s autobiography, Miracles of Life, it became apparent that, as much as I would like to resist a biographical reading of Ballard’s work, it is Ballard’s own childhood that has had a fundamental regulatory effect on the Ballardian imaginary. In Empire of the Sun, Ballard playfully encouraged the reader to ‘spot’ the Ballardian icon in an autobiographical context – the drained swimming pool, the crashed plane – while simultaneously denying that autobiography provided any kind of key or code to understanding his work. His life, as represented in both Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women, is filtered through the medium of fiction. In the light of Miracles of Life, I would now like to suggest that it is Lunghua, the resettlement camp into which he, his parents and his sister were interned during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in World War Two, that is the model for the Ballardian social environment. Lunghua is enclosed, fenced off from the outside world; it is a place where work is scarce; where a system of social codes and conventions regulate personal interaction; where games, hobbies, organised events schedule the lives of its inhabitants; and where existence shades inevitably into a slow decline unto death. A place to rebel against, if space can be found; a space to escape from, if escape is possible. Lunghua is the model for the high-rises, gated communities, science parks and suburban dormitory towns of Ballard’s later fiction.

Metacriticism/metatext (K♣). ‘What is distinctive about The Arcades Project – in Benjamin’s mind, it always dwelt apart – is the working of quotations into the framework of montage [….] the transcendence of the conventional book form would go together, in this case, with the blasting apart of pragmatic historicism – grounded, as this always is, on the premise of a continuous and homogenous temporality. Citation and commentary might then be perceived as intersecting at a thousand different angles, setting up vibrations across the epochs of recent history, so as to effect “the cracking open of natural teleology.” And all of this would unfold through the medium of hints or “blinks” – a discontinuous presentation deliberately opposed to traditional modes of argument.’ [11]

Spades ♠

(A♠) Macro-economic tidal systems. B sat down in the oak-panelled room of state opposite Sir Richard Markham. Markham assessed this loose-limbed man in the ragged flying jacket. A constellation of scars around his mouth and jaw-line traced the trajectory of his chequered history as an agent. Markham accepted the logic of the situation – an agent lasted a few years in the field, no more – but B had gone further than most, much further in many ways. The grey, haunted eyes that looked through Markham scanned the ocean bottom of his psyche, cut adrift from the time system of Whitehall.
‘You’ve been away, B,’ said Markham.
B’s eyes refocused.
‘In a manner of speaking.’

(2♠) Auto-intentional displacement. B realised, as he stood on the moving walkway in the inner hub of Charles de Gaulle airport, that the geometry of the architecture expressed a latent psychopathology. The concrete tunnels of the travellators indicated a profound desire to return to the amniotic peacefulness of the womb, the octagonal central atrium and suspended Perspex walkways revealing a fascist worship of the late General in the form of an architectural homage to his nasal septum and zygomatic arch. B found himself profoundly identifying with the unknown would-be assassin who had missed his opportunity to be the French Oswald in 1965. It was clear to him that the French, for all their insistence on grands projets like CDG, inhabited a fundamental and psychotic cultural landscape in which the tension between their embrace of modernity and their nostalgia for empire went unresolved.

(3♠) Goldeneye. As he dipped the clutch of the Aston and thrust the gearstick into fifth, B remembered the death of his wife. It was, he now understood, a special form of automobile accident. Blauveldt and Blunt, whom he had previously recognised as enemies, were in fact the agents of an underlying logic of necessity. Since the death of his wife, B had slipped further and further out of time, occupying fugue states where hours slipped by. Now, as blades of sodium light accelerated across his windshield, B felt himself again returning to the fugue state that had plagued him since her death, the Aston congealing in a viscid block of time.

(4♠) Operation Grand Slam. B opened the attaché case. In it he found what Markham had called his ‘assassination weapon’. It consisted of: (a) reproductions of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’; (b) a pulp spy novel by one Richard Markham; (c) Eadweard Muybridge’s series photographs of horse and rider; (d) soft inner flying helmet and communication rig of B-29 navigator, USAAF issue; (e) November 1963 edition of Time magazine; (f) an unused prophylactic wrapped in a tin foil sachet; (g) black-box voice recording of co-pilot, Concorde air disaster, Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris; (h) .25 Beretta pistol.

(5♠) Heliotropic. Dr Catherine Penny waited in the secure car park of the Jodrell Bank radio telescopes, as the man in the ragged flying jacket paced the grounds, where the massive volumes of the dishes sprouted like some monstrous alien crop. Dr Penny thought of B‘s grey, haunted eyes, and turned the heating in the MGC up a notch. What B was looking for, he could not find amongst the files and despatch boxes of Whitehall. Could he find it here, among the constellations?

(6♠) Index of Alienation. B calculated the angle between Dr Penny’s rigid torso and her splayed thighs, as she sat like an ill-propped mannequin on the edge of his bed. The conjunction between her naked body, the vintage bottle of Bollinger and the torn foil of the prophylactic sachet brought back disconcerting memories of the buckled armcove on Monaco race day. He turned back to the light box he was building to display x-ray plates of his own fractured clavicle, femur, and kneecap.

(7♠) Quantum theory. ‘Pay attention, B,’ said Quinn, the head of the special quartermaster stores. ‘One day these things could conceivably save your life.’
He placed another card on the desk and invited B to respond.
‘Come on,’ said B. ‘What will it be next? Solitaire? The Tarot pack?’
‘This is for the good of your health, not mine,’ replied Quinn, ‘though God knows it’s difficult enough to tell the difference these days. How did you find Switzerland?’
B smiled. ‘The facilities were excellent. The doctors pronounced me in fine physical shape.’ The lie was automatic, almost unconscious, thought Quinn.
B’s eyes defocused, the deck of cards indecipherable sigils beneath his hands.

(8♠) Beretta .25. Sitting on the balcony of his room in the Loew’s hotel in Monte Carlo, B watched the workmen fix road markings for the motor racing that would take place next week. The late afternoon sun painted the harbour with gold as he finished the club sandwich and drained the last of the glass of Johnny Walker Black Label. On his knees was the conference pack of the neurosurgery symposium he was attending, where he hoped to catch up with Blufeldt. Blufeldt had assumed the legitimate identity of a specialist doctor and had attached himself to a radical clinic in Bern, Switzerland. He was giving a paper on neurology, brain injury and fugue states. B stood up, brushed the crumbs from his knees, and pinned his identification tag onto his shirt. At least the others would know who he was supposed to be.

(9♠) Jackie O. As B entered Catherine Penny from behind, he registered the way her hips, flaring out from the waist, repeated the sensual curves of the mouthpiece of the telephone. Her back, bent rigidly over Markham’s desk, echoed the planes of the reclining chair that sat, as in a psychiatrist’s consulting room, to one side of the grand office. As he moved inside her, B thought of the coil that sat in Catherine’s womb like an ironic plastic echo of the DNA double-helix. He held Catherine’s hips as if he were piloting the Aston at high speed down the autobahn between Köln and Berlin.

Ballardian: Ian Fleming

(10♠) Neverland. ‘Blaufeld is in Florida,’ said Markham, looking at B carefully. ‘Down at the Cape, the disused launch site. We don’t think he’s interested in the physical possibilities of the gantries, but…’
‘I always wanted to be an astronaut,’ said B. ‘The NASA program drew a lot of astronauts from Navy fliers, like Sheppard. I met him once. A difficult man. He told me flatly that no Royal Navy Commander could ever make NASA grade.’
‘Space,’ Blaufeld had said, ‘is money.’

(J♠) Solar Transits. The strip lighting haloed from Bluffield’s large, pink, shaven skull as he looked up at B from under cerebrotonic brows.
‘You’ve never understood my work, James. God knows I’ve tried to explain. But I knew you’d come. Particularly here, of all places.’
B looked out of the office windows and saw the rusted, half-ruined gantries propped like a disused stage-set against the Florida sky. He could feel the .25 Beretta in its clam-shell holster beneath his left arm, but knew he would never use it now. The cool afternoon seemed to stretch forever, like the nearby glades.
‘How long have you been having these fugues, James?’ asked Bluffield.

(Q♠) Restitution. Karen Blunt sat astride the Yamaha, revving it slowly, her aviator shades reflecting the parking lot where B sat in the open-top Pontiac. One side of B’s face was turning coral in the intense afternoon sun, as he lived out a waking dream, his memory tapping out the algebra of his past. Karen’s dark hair cascaded onto her sturdy shoulders and chest, which were buttoned up in a grubby NASA flight suit scavenged from Kennedy. Here at Cocoa Beach, outside the bar where the astronauts once dreamed of flight, B and Karen pitched in the oceanic tides of time.

(K♠) Pinewood to Shepperton. In the attaché case B found his instructions from Markham, consisting of a sequence of defaced postcards posted to B by Bloveldt, from Cape Kennedy, Florida; the Alamagordo testing grounds, New Mexico; Utah Beach, Normandy, France; and Fort Knox, Kentucky. They read, in date order: ‘(1) Maiden flight of Concorde (2) Abbey Road (3) Rolling Thunder (4) Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong walks on moon (5) The Wild Bunch (6) Inauguration of President Richard Milhous Nixon (7) Medium Cool (8) d.o.b 20 March (9) Let It Bleed (10) The Stones in the Park (11) Tommy (12) The election of French President Georges Pompidou, succeeding General de Gaulle (13) Woodstock (14) Altamont Speedway (15) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (16) The Atrocity Exhibition.’

..:: CONTINUED: >> Part 2 ::…

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  1. […] American Apparel ad, Bradgelina love road trips and Taco Bell, Metacritique, RIP Phyllis Gotlieb, Brian Baker “Interactive Architecture” series on Ballardian, Andrew Zornoza very great summer reading list. His book “Where I Stay” is lovely. […]

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