Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)

Author: J. G. Ballard | Page Count: 184 

'The blitzkriegs will be fought out on the spinal battlefields, in terms of the postures we assume, of our traumas mimetized in the angle of a wall or balcony.'

The Atrocity Exhibition is one one of the finest examples of the English experimental novel.  There's no obvious start/middle/end structure.  You can flick to any page and start reading to get an immediate feel for the overall style and perspective of the work; doing just that is something Ballard recommends.

The thematic merging of sexual excitement, death of celebrity, architecture and the evils of consumer society are explored as only he could, without deference to the social consciousness or exhibiting shame.

It’s an obtuse book that'll only begin to make sense the more you begin to adopt his point of view and look at your own life as the protagonist views his.  I’m not saying you should get your jollies watching automobile crashes or the removal of the top of Kennedy's head, I mean appreciating the minutiae of life, being aware of the lack of difference in things at their most basic level.

The protagonist, Talbert, Travis, Talbot, Traven (his name changes frequently, depending on where he is or what he's doing) looks upon a poster of a dune but the anatomist in him sees as an outsized female pudenda; the point where two walls merge can be a sexual thing; central nervous systems have been externalised as roads; the assassination of Kennedy encapsulates everything that's wrong and right with the world—not from a political point of view, but from a universal constant.  It's complex but also equally rewarding, particularly the second half, if you can set aside your teachings and embrace its unique structure.

If you've ever enjoyed the works of William Burroughs or Anthony Burgess then maybe Ballard will fit into your life and onto your shelf.

Note: I recommend the Fourth Estate edition published by Harper Collins, it has extended notes by the author that offer extra insight into the creation of many of the stories, and much of it is even more interesting than the novel.

5 roads that lead to celebrity death out of 5

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