Adrift at Home, Comforted by Chaos
The death of Empire of the Sun author J.G. Ballard on Sunday reminded me of how deeply I related to his semi-autobiographical book that was turned into a not completely bad film. The airing of an old interview with Ballard on Fresh Air today hit on many of the aspects of why that book felt like my own biography. Torn from a life of privilege, he found an odd freedom and respect for his captors in a Japanese prison camp and never felt able to be at home in England or with his family afterward. I've enjoyed several of his other books, but none struck the chord this one did. Just as I was excited when Christian Bale emerged as an adult actor but has never come close to equaling his debut.
Growing up in Oklahoma and Missouri, I always felt alien and found the locals to be far more surreal and incomprehensible than Martians. What interested them made no sense to me, and I've yet to find a place where I've felt completely at home. Okay, maybe Barcelona and Buenos Aires and parts of Shanghai. But the Shanghai of young Ballard is the one I want to live in.