A writer’s life

Of all the commentary in the wake of J G Ballard’s death this is the best.

Before he had even got his first short story published in the late 1950s, Ballard had survived the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, been separated from his parents, been interned in a prisoner of war camp where he lived off weevils, joined the RAF and served in Canada, been an encyclopedia salesman and even worked as a porter in Covent Garden market.

Ballard had a life experience that few modern writers can hope to match. To generalise wildly, the career path of most young (successful) writers goes something like this. Go to university – preferably Oxford or Cambridge – and read English. While there, start writing novel and get a few pieces published in the university magazine. Move to London after graduation, start a creative writing postgraduate degree and pick up some work reviewing books for the literary supplements while tidying up the fourth draft of your novel. You then get your novel published, which gets a few kind reviews thanks to the contacts you’ve made and sells precisely 317 copies.

I wonder if we’ll see his like again.

Read the whole thing.


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