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Millennium People
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2019 Book Discussions > Millennium People: Background and General Discussion (no spoilers) (Apr 2019)

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message 1: by lark (last edited Apr 15, 2019 08:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments Hello and welcome to our discussion of Millennium People!

First published in 2003 in the UK, and only published in the US in 2011, Millennium People was Ballard's ~17th novel, and in many ways it reflects the same themes Ballard had been exploring since the 1961 publication of his first novel, The Wind from Nowhere.

It might be significant that the best criticism I've found of Ballard were written by two men known for having strong opinions, Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens--these all are marvelous essays to ground yourself in Ballard and his world view:

"From outer space to inner space" by Martin Amis (The Guardian, 2009):

"The Catastrophist" by Cristopher Hitchens (The Atlantic, 2010):

5-year retrospective of Ballard's work--with contributions from several writers (The Guardian, 2014):

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments The Guardian published competing reviews--

"Having fun with the bourgeoisie"

"Volvo Drivers are Revolting"

I'll post more shortly...

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
Thanks Lark. I have a copy and will probably start it soon...

Mark | 289 comments Well, Ballard has seen more of Armageddon than most of us, as Empire of the Sun shows. (Though I understand that the fall of Singapore was easier on Ballard than you would gather from the novel.) A lighthearted envisioning of the fantastic idea that British citizens would voluntarily destroy their means of life. THAT would never happen!

Mark | 289 comments Thanks for the links, Lark! The Amis & Hitchens pieces gave a good background on the author. I was reminded of my favorite Ballard story: http://www.you-books.com/book/J-G-Bal...

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
The Guardian reviews aren't really competing. Some of them were first published in The Observer, a Sunday paper that is now owned by the Guardian group but retains quite a lot of editorial independence.

Kathleen | 266 comments Thank you, Lark. This will be my first Ballard book (I did see the movies of both Empire and Crash), so I really appreciate the background articles. It will be a week or so before I get my copy, but I'm anxious to start!

carissa Just from reading the blurb and the first chapter, I am seeing parallels with Running Wild...the kids have grown-up and they're still not happy about our world,so they are gonna break-it-down!

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments carissa I felt the same way, thinking about Running Wild as I read this.

message 10: by lark (new) - rated it 4 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments Essay by J.G. Ballard about the experience of writing Empire of the Sun:


Most interesting to me is his need to write his parents out of the novel for it to feel 'true' to him, even though he was interred with them, not on his own as "Jamie" is in Empire of the Sun. I need to think about that.

message 11: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark | 289 comments Thanks for finding that gentle and true essay. Has any other writer dealt so gently with watching a personal story be taken over by STEPHEN SPIELBERG, of all people? Of course, he had already separated the novel from his life when he dropped his parents. It sure is Ballard, though:   [Shanghai's] magic never faded, whereas I forgot Cambridge within five minutes of leaving that academic theme park, and never wanted to go back. The only people I remembered were the dissecting room cadavers.

message 12: by lark (new) - rated it 4 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments Mark after your comment I ended up wanting to watch the movie again. It's extraordinary but also very sentimental--no surprise given its a Spielberg film--and that invitation to sentimentality in the onscreen story is probably the reason why American readers re-connected with Ballard, and why most of his books were republished here post-film. My read of Millennium People is that there isn't a shred of sentimentality in it anywhere. Which is the same experience I've had while reading his other novels as well. They're a little bit ruthless. When I go to review them I keep writing things like that I felt Ballard was poking me relentlessly as I read, or maybe being a bit more hostile than that. I feel it physically...he is ruthless.

message 13: by lark (new) - rated it 4 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments The only other film (I think) of a Ballard novel is "Crash" directed by David Cronenberg in 1996. Not the "Crash" that won the Oscar. From what I hear this filmic treatment of Ballard's novel "Crash" is as ruthless as the novel is, and probably more true to the book that way than Empire of the Sun is.

message 14: by Lia (last edited May 02, 2019 03:39PM) (new) - added it

Lia So I saw this comment by a Doubleday reader:

“This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish”

I LOL’d, and then I start to worry that Gould might be autobiographical.

I don’t even think I qualify for the middle class, I really shouldn’t worry so much about other people’s disorderly writings!

message 15: by Hugh (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
Just a quick thankyou to Lark for choosing this book and prompting this lively discussion. As always the discussion threads will remain open for late contributions.

message 16: by lark (new) - rated it 4 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments Thanks Hugh. I was thrilled to have the chance to discuss Ballard and Millennium People in the group. Thank you everyone!

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