I haven’t read anything by J G Ballard since I was a teenager. Nor have I read, or enjoyed, much science fiction. A simple statement by Ballard, filmed in 2006 and shown on a Channel Four News obituary last night, makes me suspect I’ve been missing something. He said:
“The great thing about science fiction is that nobody lives in Hampstead.”
Compare and contrast with this extract from a book review by some airhead a few years ago, which I shall have to paraphrase because I cannot track down the exact quote:
“This is a perfectly-observed portrait of North London literary life, with such telling details as the copy of the weekend Guardian Guide on the coffee table.”
I don’t recall which novel was under review, but it could have been one among hundreds, couldn’t it?
I believe the Icelandic writer Fjona Uu once toyed with the idea of writing a novel in which all the citizens of Hampstead and Highgate would sent into space on a shuttle with a limited air supply; essentially an expansion of her 1998 short story ‘Reconfiguring Space’ in which a London based art historian (author of the seminal study ‘The Uses of Space in Conceptual Art’) is thrown into a rocket and left to consider the true meaning of spatial emptiness before dying a horrible death at the paws of the bewildered dog who was sent with him.