THE SEER OF SHEPPERTON
Q: Do you enjoy living here in Shepperton?
A: I don't really live here - in a way it's just a sort of grid reference on the map. I came here 20 years ago with my wife simply because we didn't have any money. We'd had three children by then, so we moved out, down the sort of price scale which coincided, by & large, with the distance from London, & found a small house here. Suburbs are nice places to bring up kids in England. I stayed on here out of inertia once the kids went to schools & all the rest of it. It would have been difficult for me on my own to bring up my three kids in Central London...
Also, it's a great place to work. It's isolated. In a crackpot way, I guess I do like to be where the battle is joined most fiercely... & in a way a suburb like this is the real psychic battleground - it's on the wavefront of the future, rather than a city area. I keep an eye on all the social trends that develop - and it's very interesting to watch the fashions. I would almost call it an airport culture that's springing up around in suburbs like this - a very transient kind of world.
A city like London doesn't really offer me anything - I'm not interested in it, it's much too old. Whereas the suburbs are, comparatively speaking, new. In a way they're more dangerous - you're not going to get mugged walking down the street, but somebody might steal your soul. I mean that literally - your will to live. Your imagination might be taken from you by some passing merchandise corporation or what have you.
Excerpt from RE/Search #8/9: J.G. Ballard (1984).