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JGB: A 'billionaire' in Shepperton?Author: Simon Sellars • Jan 22nd, 2009 •
I thought I’d share a lovely comment from Vicky, a reader of my Shepperton photo essay (which reminds me: I’m still to post the second part. I hope to do that very soon, even if it is almost a year late):
Growing up [in Shepperton] from 1987–1998 I knew the mysterious J G Ballard lived in the house next door to my sister’s best friend Tara. Your beautiful photographs bring back so many memories for me, especially the curly bridge from the end of my road. Living there and walking past his house every day I never once laid eyes on the man himself but so many stories circulated about him that he was almost like a mythical character. We believed he was a billionaire but he refused to leave his semi in Shepperton and that he had a car in his living room. I’m sure there were some nudist rumours too. Does he still live there?
A billionaire! Not quite…
One of the things I really love about Thomas Cazals’ Ballard docudrama is the way it taps into this mythical strata, exaggerating it for supreme comic effect (but still with all the affection due our favourite writer). I think I agree with Toby Litt, who said on his panel at Kosmopolis that he sometimes wishes Ballard had never excavated at length his Shanghai background in interviews.
What would we be left with? How should we fill in the gaps, answer the questions asked of us by his work, without the distorting lens of biography? With musings similar to Vicky and Thomas, trying to make sense of this warped genius who seems to have drifted into our reality from a parallel dimension, where he is indeed enjoying a hearty laugh at our expense.
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