The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D 

J. G. BALLARD: The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D

“Later her portraits, carved in the whirlwind, were to weep their storm-rain upon the corpses of their sculptors.”

Fiction is like cloud sculpting, clouds as words, words as clouds, and we see the faces, the interactions, the cripples and the beautiful ones, the gliders of plot between, the scenic thermals and vicious storms, only to become smears or effervescences of memory, eventually fading as the next wordclouds come along in the eternal race. Hence perhaps crystallising them in these individual gestalts of reviewed real-time, eventually reaching out, literarily re-viewing them in constructed hindsight, towards the ultimate gestalt that can never be swept away by the winds and gales of life? And this story is an inspiring version of that, I can see, as we witness clouds sculpted as part of its very plot, from a crazed Mona Lisa and much else to portrait sculptures of the ‘colossal narcissist’ Garbo-type woman Leonora whose portraits by famous artists she has collected for her home, a formidable woman now commissioning these portraits in the sky from a group of characters in this story, themselves a sort of Picasso painting of motley figures from a “threadbare circus”, one of whom falls in love with another woman connected to Leonora called Lafferty. The outcome in the sky is thrilling and inevitable. Beautifully written. As we fly like a composite Michelangelo in precarious gliders ourselves above an exhausted volcano as mesa but ever within an unexhausted and manipulatable mass of sky’s immortality. Whatever the crippled bodies we leave behind on the ground when parts of us crash back there.

“Leonora clutched at his elbow. With the diamonds fixed around her eyes she reminded me of some archaic priestess.”

My previous reviews of J.G. Ballard:

It seems fortuitous that, by an inspiring chance coincidence, I have read this story today in due order of planned reading soon after completing my review of ‘The Queen of Clouds’ here, an equally significant work that is intensely connected by a diverse, yet mutual, synergy of power and poignancy.
And both also suddenly remind me of ‘The Cloud Cartographer’ here.

Full context of this review here:

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