A Users Guide to the Millennium by J.G. Ballard is an absolute treasure chest for anyone interested in 20th century pop culture. It’s a collection of essays and reviews that spans 30+ years, culled from a wide range of magazines and covers such subjects as art, history, science, cinema and science fiction and such personalities and icons as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Dali, William Burroughs, Howard Hughes, Einstein, Warhol, Henry Miller, the list goes on.
Most of the pieces are short but pack a punch. Brilliant observations, a wicked turn of phrase and loaded with information, history and little-known facts, this gem has the effect of whetting your appetite for more. I, for one, will be tracking down books on various of the subjects and people explored in this volume.
One might think that a hotch-potch collection like this can’t have anything like a cohesive quality to it, but, more than anything else, the sheer breath of the canvas painted and the uniquely skewed view of Ballard gives us an inside look at the mind of the writer. Of particular interest are the autobiographical essays which serve as the core of the book and paint a vivid picture of Shanghai in the 30’s and 40’s.