December 18, 2010
'Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan' prompted Doubleday in 1970 to pulp its first American edition of The Atrocity Exhibition. Ronald Reagan's presidency remained a complete mystery to most Europeans, though I noticed that Americans took him far more easily in their stride. But the amiable old duffer who occupied the White House was a very different person from the often sinister figure I described in 1967, when the ... piece was first published. The then-novelty of a Hollywood film star entering politics and becoming governor of California gave Reagan considerable airtime on British TV. Watching his right-wing speeches in which he castigated in sneering tones the profligate, welfare-spending, bureaucrat-infested state government, I saw a more crude and ambitious figure, far closer to the brutal crime boss he played in the 1964 movie The Killers, his last Hollywood role...From J. G. Ballard's note to chapter 14 of The Atrocity Exhibition, in the expanded and annotated edition, Harper Perennial, 2006.
[Preparing for an obscenity trial against a bookshop owner, a] defence lawyer asked me why I believed 'Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan' was not obscene, to which I had to reply that of course it was obscene, and intended to be so. Why, then, was its subject matter not Reagan's sexuality? Again I had to affirm that it was. At last the lawyer said: 'Mr Ballard, you will make a very good witness for the prosecution. We will not be calling you.'
At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of my Reagan text, minus its title and the running sideheads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed to delegates. I'm told it was accepted for what it resembled, a psychological paper on the candidate's subliminal appeal, commissioned from some maverick think-tank.