Thursday, November 9, 2017


There are few genres of literature I loathe more than the mid-century White Male Narcissist novel, so given that, as much as it is anything, The Unlimited Dream Company is one of those, well,  it's a good thing I went into it cold out I never would have touched it. Especially not a used copy of it, because it would doubtless fluoresce under black light, if you know what I mean.*

That aside, this is still a J.G. Ballard novel, and hey, it's not as "bad" as, say, Henry Miller (whom I also admire even as he makes me roll my eyes a lot). Indeed, one might even point to this book as an example of what a Henry Miller sci-fi/ fantasy novel might have been like had Miller ever bothered to try these genres.

Interestingly, though, what drew me in, and drew me in so far that by the time I realized what I really had on my hands (ewwww), was this novel's resemblance to the work of one of my favorite film directors, Peter Greenway. Specifically, to one of his most eccentric and experimental feature films, The Falls.

This book, which starts off sounding so much like the "Tulse Luper" story "The Cassowary" that I all but screamed, could easily be taken as a description of the Violent Unknown Event which caused all of the effects catalogued in The Falls. The film, you see, is presented as a series of biographical sketches of VUE victims, with attention to their physical symptoms, their new languages, their dreams and new obsessions, all resulting from, it's generally understood, their sudden and unexplained, simultaneous and incomplete transformation into birds. A major feature of The Unlimited Dream Company is the frequent metamorphoses of the protagonist, a Mr. Blake (a nod to the poet / print artist William Blake, of course), and, at one time or another many or all of the population of a London suburb, into birds, as well as fish or various mammals.

So, I put up with all of the constant references to and descriptions of Blake running around naked and being all but worshiped for it, Blake causing luxuriant tropical plants to sprout everywhere that he sprays his considerable volume of semen (dude is a firehose), Blake entertaining taboo sexual fantasies about everything with a pulse, Blake daydreaming about one woman's body odor, etc. He never gets quite so self - aggrandizing as Miller (well, okay, he comes close on occasion, but never at Miller's, umm, length), nor as opaque as Greenway, at least.

By which I mean the prose is as clear and readable as ever, without ever getting too banal or clinical as one might expect a science fiction writer might do when getting explicit with a capital X. Hey, I'm surprised, too.  But I shouldn't be. I am a Ballard fangirl for life, and am now convinced that he'll never let me down.

I might just need to chill out with some nice Sigrid Undset or something for a while once I'm done with some of my current projects, one of which is a review of D. Harlan Wilson's critical biography/ bibliography of J.G. Ballard, which I'll be posting soon to Skiffy and Fanty. Hence my deep dive into Ballardiana I hadn't yet read!

*And if you don't, I envy you.