Geoff Manaugh's Between the Tower and the Parking Lot: A Spatial Appreciation of J.G. Ballard

Geoff Manaugh is the author of BLDGBLOG and the forthcoming BLDGBLOG Book, previewed on Omnivoracious last week. I thought his unique perspective would be of interest to readers curious about J.G. Ballard and his worldview. I hope you enjoy his short essay. It encapsulates a lot of the elements I find fascinating about Ballard. - Jeff VanderMeer

Between the Tower and the Parking Lot: A Spatial Appreciation of J.G. Ballard
by Geoff Manaugh

J.G. Ballard, who died on Sunday at the age of 78, leaves behind far more than his status as a "cult author," science fiction novelist, or agent provocateur. Although most of his novels are still all but impossible to find in the U.S., I would argue that Ballard is one of the most important writers on architecture in the last century. But what do I mean by architecture, and why would that be the source of much of his works' continued relevance?

Ballard is best known for his look at the erotic nature of car accidents (Crash) and his semi-autobiographical account of a childhood spent in a Japanese internship camp during the Second World War (Empire of the Sun), but it's also worth looking at the settings of his less well-known novels: the architectural structures and urban landscapes in which they take place. Among other things, what makes Ballard's fiction so spatially valuable is that he explores the psychological implications of everyday non-places--like parking lots, high-rise apartment towers, highway embankments, shopping malls, well-policed corporate enclaves, and even British suburbia--without resorting to the flippant condemnation one might expect. Instead, Ballard describes these spaces in terms of their effects: how they mutate and rearrange the mental lives of their inhabitants.

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Comments (5)

The kind of tribute that someone with a twisted dark sense of humor, like Ballard, might actually appreciate!
They can both now rest in peace, Ballard and his "sedulous ape,"

Posted by: skagen watches for men | Tuesday November 8, 2011 at 1:37 AM

Some high rise buildings have a deep underground parking complexes that goes down to sub-levels. Others have an established parking site on a nearby block.

Posted by: perth airport longterm parking | Tuesday December 6, 2011 at 4:45 PM

First, kudos to such detailed book reviews! These books are a must read.

Posted by: sleep | Wednesday December 28, 2011 at 11:19 PM

I'll have to send Ballard's Crash to my car accident attorney los angeles friend. Thanks!

Posted by: car accident attorney los angeles | Wednesday January 4, 2012 at 4:53 PM

I've been a fan of J.G. Ballard's ever since I read The Drowned World and The Wind from Nowhere, both dramatic and imposing mood pieces about the end of the world. Ballard's prose has a heavy, sensual languidness to it suited to these dark themes.

Posted by: car | Tuesday January 24, 2012 at 5:47 PM

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