A Latent Talent

By Rick McGrath

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I’ll be honest: the first thing that attracted me to I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts is Mark Dery’s rather poetic dedication: “To J.G. Ballard/ Pathologist of the postmodern/ astronaut of inner space/ matchless stylist, generous mentor. He sought the gold of time.” I’m not sure about Dery as a mentor, but everything else he praises about Ballard I can re-use to praise this collection of essays, including his clever use of Andre Breton’s description of surrealism as the ‘gold of time’.

Dery also summons Ballard as a theme-setter for his book, finding in the Introduction to Hello, America, the Dread and Dreams of his subtitle: “Cadillacs, Coca-Cola, and cocaine, presidents and psychopaths, Norman Rockwell and the mafia… the dream of America endlessly unravels its codes, like the helix of some ideological DNA.” And so it is with Dr. Dery, who peeks out of the pages as a kind of madcap CSI mortician, picking out the double spiral of ideological dualism that infuses American culture.

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