Saturday, April 29, 2006

Smashing Fiction

Has anyone else actually managed to finish Crash? I guiltily admit that I have dumped it after 50 pages because it has made me feel so totally nauseated that I just can't go on. Am just awaiting the visions of legions of J.G.Ballard's fans (all of them male, I betcha) leaping to its defense.

Yes, I can appreciate the book's audacity and it's darkness. And yes, I do feel the author has something important to say about the direction that humanity is headed, becoming increasingly depersonalised in this age of technology. I can take on board the message about how sexuality could become subverted under such circumstances. (The characters become sexually fixated with car smashes, linger lovingly over pictures of the wounds of smash victims, haunt accident sites, get a hard on from seeing twisted wrecks, and believe a head-on collision yields the ultimate orgasm.)

But the descriptions are distressingly graphic and I almost lost my dinner at one point. (Warning: read on an empty stomach.)

Apparently an editor at Ballard's publishing house warned:
This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.
If your curiosity has been stirred (heaven forbid), you can read an extract from it here.

A glance at the reviews on Amazon reveals that it's one of those books you give either one star to, or five, and I can quite see why. I might come back to it at a later dater. I'd love to see David Cronenberg’s controversial film of the book. I'll read the rest of Ballard's oeuvre.

Incidentally, loved this ("irreverent scientific") footnote reader magellan added to his review on amazon.com:

And if humans think their sex has an element of violence in it--they should see how marine flatworms do it. It's called "penis fencing." The flatworms duel it out with their gigantic penises (eat your heart out, John "H." Holmes) and the first one to stab his big sharp dork through the skin of the other implants his sperm, causing the other flatworm to become pregnant and give birth whether he wants to or not. Biologists also think that these flatworms were the first multicellular animals to have sexual reproduction as we know it, which means that sex and violence have been linked ever since its earliest evolutionary origins.

Good think that flatworms never got around to inventing literature, I suppose, or who knows what perverted stuff they would be writing?

17 comments:

Eric Forbes said...

Hello Sharon - J.G. Ballard's Crash (1972) is not exactly an easy read. However, it is considered to be his most notorious and influential novel. I much prefer his semi-autobioraphical novels, Empire of the Sun (1984) and The Kindness of Women (1991). Read Empire of the Sun first, then read The Kindness of Women. I believe you will enjoy both this books. Happy reading, Eric Forbes

bibliobibuli said...

thanks eric - i have empire of the sun and intend to read it ... am not put off ballard - it's just a case of a book not connecting with a reader, not a case of bad writing

The Visitor said...

erm, you ARE supposed to feel uncomfortable reading the book.

sex has always been associated with violence and the horror and mutilation of the body. that's why a lot of horror films and stories have sexual elements in them.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't send me. I guess men are more visceral, and women literal. I get nauseated looking at, for instance, a dead cat with it's guts spilling out on the road. But his words are just.. words. I think he doesn't doesn't paint an adequate enough picture. Nabokov's "Lolita" I think, is more disturbing than this.

Sufian said...

brilliant cover.

bibliobibuli said...

visitor - oh yes, i get the point ..

anon - now you're making me feel sick ...

sufian ... brilliant cover? it's just a picture of a smashed car ... or ... just wait a minute ...

madcap machinist said...

Yes, brilliant cover. I didn't know that Crash came from a book. I saw the movie on dvd with some friends a year or so ago and I remember that there were mixed feelings about it. Someone thought it was porn, another thought it's a cheap b-film, one or two thought it was brilliant.

I thought whoever wrote the story must be quite deranged.

I liked the movie. I think I'll go look for the book now...

bibliobibuli said...

machinist - got my copy in kinokuniya ...

Anonymous said...

Machinist,

Maybe it's brilliant, cheap, b-grade porn ?

Car crashes as an art form.. hmm. :)

madcap machinist said...

Sharon: thanks for the pointer...

Anon.: hm... have we met? :)

Ron said...

You have stirred my interest and I was surprised to find new, but old (as in published some time ago), copies available at Abebooks. My wife is NOT going to be happy when the credit card bill comes in next month.

Lara Amir said...

i've read it, and it was tedious. i bought sushi to reward myself for finishing it. i thought it was way repetitive ("a torso getting impaled on an engine block" 1000x? no thanks) and decided that Ballard must be a wanker, so i give it no stars. but then i didn't read Empire of The Sun, so nevermind.

GC said...

Strangely enough, David Cronenberg himself had a similar reaction to his first read of Crash, so much so that he had to put it down midway for months.

I would be more conserned if a person did not have a reaction to Crash either way ...

Where some percieve repitition, I see immersion. Ballard so completely rewrites morality, and the truths that we cling to within the human experience, that I believe our actions globally can be understood from within this realignment.

I will not bore anyone with my multitude of views about this work. However, I must point out that although Crash may be difficult, a reader may be quite surprised what that percieved violation fertilises.

Like a intellectual boomerang, it might be some time before it comes 'round again to hit you in the head ... and for most, it will.

Regards,

GC

s3pu1chr4v3 said...

Some people can take it and some people can't Lara and Sharon. Don't get yourself down because you can't handle what it widely regarded as one of the most controversial (even today) and insightful works of fiction of our times.
If you want an easy read there are plenty of romance novels or maybe space opera's for you to easily get through. I mean, who can't get past fifty pages or a Jackie Collins tome?!
But seriously Sharon, you say you put it down after fifty pages but then you go on to describe it's 'audacity and it's darkness', and you can feel,'the author has something important to say about the direction that humanity headed in.' I mean, did you read it or not? It seems like you did but for some reason won't admit to it. After all, these things aren't really covered in the first fifty pages of the book.
Perhaps living in a society that can be somewhat repressive like Malaysia can be at times has rubbed off on you? I mean, just because you find the book preverted or obscene, its still okay to say that you've read it.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks for dropping by gc and s3pu1chr4v3

had no idea what a hornets nest i'd stir by saying i didn't want to go on reading crash

i had no idea that ballard had such a passionate following and now i am intrigued now to find out what i missed on first read (though i still hear no female readers speaking up in the book's defense ... c'mon!)

didn't read beyond the first fifty pages but dipped in to other parts of the book ...

not all books fit all readers and there's plenty of excellent stuff to chosse from out there s3pu1chr4v3!
am no fan of romance novels as you will see if you read other posts ...

gc - intrigued that even cronenburg found the book hard to read at first ... there's hope for me yet

Wilder Penrose said...

Try The Atrocity Exhibition, which certainly is difficult, but very rewarding.

For me, Ballard is the greatest living English writer. I've followed him for 25 years; his initially fantastic vision has become an everyday reality. I have no doubt that his work will endure. Very few of his contemporaries will last. Martin Amis and Will Self, to name but two, would be considerably diminished were it not for the Ballardian shadow.

Regards,

Dr Penrose

Wilder Penrose said...

Oh, I forgot to mention the wonderful website
http://www.ballardian.com/ for all things Ballard.

His writing is more powerful than ever, even though he is in his seventies. The latest novel is Kingdom Come, which is set in an English shopping mall. For a certain type of English person, it all rings horribly true. As for his female readership, I know several women who share my opinion of The Sage Of Shepperton.

Regards,

Dr Penrose