16 Oct 2014



SOURCE: Free with a newspaper.

THE BOOK {According to the back cover}: J.G. Ballard has been, for over fifty years, one of the country's most significant writers. Beginning with the events that inspired his classic novel, Empire Of The Sun, in this revelatory autobiography he charts the course of his astonishing life.

Miracles Of Life takes us from the vibrant surroundings of pre-war Shanghai, to the deprivations and unexpected freedoms of Lunghua Camp, to Ballard's arrival in a devastated Britain. Ballard recounts his first attempts at fiction and his part in the social and artistic revolutions of the 60's. He describes his friendships with figures as diverse as Kingsley Amiss, Michael Moorcock and Eduardo Paolozzi alongside recollections of his domestic life in Shepperton - raising three children as a single father following the unexpected and premature death of his wife.

FIRST SENTENCE {Part One: Chapter One - Shanghai Arrival (1930)}: I was born in Shanghai General Hospital on 15 November 1930, after a difficult delivery that my mother, who was slightly built and slim-hipped, liked to describe to me in later years, as if this revealed something about the larger thoughtlessness of the world.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 191}: I received an advance of $1000, which seemed a fortune. I celebrated by moving from the 3/6 (three shillings and sixpence) lunch menu at the Swan pub in Knightsbridge to the 4/6 menu, an extravagance that alarmed the waitress, to whom I had proudly shown a photograph of my three children.

MY THOUGHTS: Whilst not a big fan of memoirs/autobiographies in general I did enjoy Empire Of The Sun and so had a passing interest in this author.

The child of British parents living in Shanghai, JG (James 'Jim') Ballard spent his formative years incarcerated in a Japanese prisoner of war camp which having read this obviously informed much of his 1984 novel.

Essentially chronicling his experiences between 1930 and 2007. Whilst  for myself, having read Empire Of The Sun, there was very little new to learn of his war time experiences which formed the vast part of Miracles Of Life, there were several things - his friendship with authors such as Michael Moorcock and Kingsley Amis and, of more interest to me, how his experiences informed the upbringing of his daughters - to be learnt about his older self.

A modest yet somehow intense account of a life well lived and I feel the fitting memoir of a man who we learnt in the latter pages of the book had been diagnosed with a cancer that had spread to his bones.


Kelly said...

I'm fairly picky about memoirs and biographies. Not having read this author's book, I'm afraid his memoir doesn't appeal to me.

I'm glad you found it interesting.

Literary Feline said...

I'm like Kelly when it comes to memoirs and biographies. And I tend not to read ones by or about celebrities or famous/well known people. This is one I might read though.

I am a huge fan of Empire of the Sun both in its written form and the movie. The movie is one of my all time favorites--and never fails to make me cry no matter how often I see it. I read the book after having seen the movie numerous times and loved it as well. I haven't read anything else by the author though, sad to say.

Tracy Terry said...

Like both yourself and Kelly, I'm not a big fan of memoirs but given my enjoyment of Empire Of The Sun was curious about the rest of the author's life (and, well, the book was free). Rather naive of me perhaps but I hadn't even thought of him having written any other books and I certainly wasn't aware of the notoriety of some of those books. Not something I'll probably even read but never say never.

Sherry Ellis said...

Memoirs can be tricky to write. They have to be interesting without sounding egotistical to work.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

I have to admit that I am not a fan of biographies and memoirs, so although there are certain aspects of Ballard's life and writing, which interested me after seeing this post, I still don't think I could be tempted to read this one!

I have never read 'Empire Of the Sun', although I have watched the film and I am certain that the accounts of his meetings with other authors, were most enlightening.

It sounds as though you were a little in two minds about this one, however your review was fair and well considered, thanks for that!

Besides which, who amongst us would be able to pass up a free read!


Suko said...

This sounds interesting, Tracy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this memoir.

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

I am glad to hear you liked this memoir and it does sound like it is interesting. I haven't read anything by this author. I thought it was fascinating to find out how you got your copy of this one. :)

Melliane said...

It's not something I would usually read but it sounds well done.

Brian Joseph said...

Ballard was such an interesting character. I want to read this.

I had no idea that he was friends with Michael Michael Moorcock . That seems unexpected.

Lindsay said...

I enjoyed your honest and balanced review Tracy, I would like to read more memoirs than I actually do at the moment. I loved the film of Empire of the Sun and watched it quite a bit when I was younger, but although I remember borrowing the book from the library, I don't think I ever finished it. I imagine there's a lot of events of interest in his life.