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Light Your Heart Here
on July 4, 2001
'The Kindness of Women' is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read - it gripped me with the shock of seeing deep into a man's hurt but inspired psyche, it left me weeping in pity for Ballard and marvelling at his survival. And laughing out loud. The account of Ballard's life after Singapore, this is no ordinary narrative autobiography - rather, a series of chapters each of which might stand as a small masterpiece alone, each like the fragment of a smashed mirror reflecting a piece of Ballard's life in microcosm - his wife and her tragic death, his friends, his children (the chapter called 'Magic World' should open every 'anthology of happiness' ever published), his involvement with the 60s through his crashed car exhibition (out of which came Crash, the basis of Cronenburg's film) and his fascination with television. Women provide the linking thread through it all - the ones who Ballard loved, made love to, or in turn loved him - his wife, Miriam, most unforgettably. But the key is an account of a man coming to terms with himself and his violent childhood - in the end what one leaves this book with is a sense of the kindness of Ballard. For this beautiful, modest, deceptively simple book, shot through with images and symbols of suffering, pain, madness and death, is in the end, more than any of his other books, a celebration of life, of love, of friends and of people. Towards the end, Ballard remarks how it had taken him most of his life to realise how these simple things were what made him happy - the rest were just dross. For anyone who has ever questioned their life, or felt great pain in their heart or in their soul, or experienced suffering of any kind - this book offeres the promise of redemption and catharsis. READ IT. It is a work for us all, a book of which one can truly say it has enriched the world. Thank you, James.