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The Atrocity Exhibition

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  3,214 ratings  ·  169 reviews
First published in 1970 and widely regarded as a prophetic masterpiece, this is a groundbreaking experimental novel by the acclaimed author of Crash and Super-Cannes, who has supplied explanatory notes for this new edition.
Published May 29th 2001 by HarperCollins (first published 1970)
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Impossible to rate or even classify this weird and disturbing book from the late '60s (it's not a novel, it's not a collection of mini-novels, it's not even a psychological treatise, though it has aspects of all three). It explores the links between death/danger and sexuality (his own wife had died suddenly a few years earlier). Parts of it will be thought obscene by many. It reflects Ballard's interests in psychoanalysis and surrealism: the very structure of the book is surreal. All of this mak ...more
I have mixed feelings about this book, as I do about all of Ballard's fictions. Ballard is brilliant, no doubt about that: he possesses one of the clearest prose styles of any writer, a style not just clear but unexpectedly ecstatic in a glacial sort of way. Some of his short stories are among the finest ever written. His collection *Vermilion Sands* in particular is absolutely one of the highest points of the form. As for his novels, they can be astoundingly original but also too obsessive.

Revisited this right before Christmas...

Check out this back cover blurb:

When the ATROCITY EXHIBITION was originally printed (1970), Nelson Doubleday saw a copy and was so horrified he ordered the entire press run shredded.

What Nelson Doubleday allegedly saw that made him figuratively soil himself in righteous indignation was one of the stories near the end of this book entitled 'Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan.' Legend has it that a wag distributed copies of this story (minus title and headings
Paul Bryant

The Atrocity Exhibition is a really a long poem, like The Waste Land or Four Quartets. This is why it's very easy to reconfigure the text as poetry.

The lost gills of the dying film actress
The pilot watches him from the roof of a lion house
The familiar geometry of the transfigured pudenda
On the way to a terminal zone
A fading harmonic fractured smile spread across the windscreen
The wig amongst the beer bottles
And you, coma : marilyn Monroe
You: coma : Marilyn Monroe

O technique of decalcomania, O su
Nate D
Apr 17, 2013 Nate D rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wound areas
Recommended to Nate D by: Two M.'s (J. Nichols and Kitchell)
Not exactly a novel, Ballard may have written more involving narratives than this 1970 present-dystopia of modernity in meltdown, but it's unlikely that he has ever surpassed its severe and unsettling perfection of form and function, diamond-hard, brilliant, and single-mindedly focused. While each unit could function as a story (and they were originally published as such in the late 60s) there's also a total cohesion here that makes it more than a collection, into some kind of shambling and uniq ...more
Michael William West
It's enjoyable to see how much the Atrocity Exhibition confuses people, it's a mission accomplished, really, I can't think anything BUT that if you are somehow not confused, then you are missing the point entirely or are selfconsciously trying to understand anything and everything in the world in some vein attempt at pan-sophism. I don't know, perhaps it would help to have had a nervous breakdown to pick apart the flurry of fragments. Or more than one: one to understand, two for context, a third ...more
Jul 06, 2009 Misha marked it as will-come-back-to-later-no-really  ·  review of another edition
Only a few pages in. Flashes of brilliance. He was a smart guy, this Ballard.

This is proving a challenging and thought-provoking read.

A couple of sentences I love:

- "They hung on the enamelled walls like the codes of insoluble dreams, the keys to a nightmare in which she had begun to play a more willing and calculated role."

- "For some reason the planes of his face failed to intersect, as if their true resolution took place in some as yet invisible dimension, or required elements other than thos
At first I thought this is going to be good. But the authors self-proclaimed "free association" method of writing quickly becomes tedious. In the version I read, each chapter was followed up with explanations. I found the explanations and their tangential ramblings to be much more interesting than the story itself. I could sum up the book in a few sentences 1) Car crashes are like sex and sex is like car crashes. 2) Ralph Nader, JFK, Marylin Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor.
Oct 14, 2009 Stephen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: College students
Whenever I think of Ballard's work, I sort of want him to be remembered as the underrated Palahniuk of a generation ago. Unfortunately that's not accurate. Palahniuk is a novelist who continually gives us stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end (the way he is supposed to). Ballard, on the other hand, is a flasher. He occasionally whips open his mental raincoat and shows us what he's got. What he shows you is shocking and disturbing, but as a reader you walk away feeling sorry for him in s ...more
By and large, I think J.G. Ballard is awesome, with everything of his I'd read to date being a real treat. Sadly, such things can never last...

Mostly flying at least 100 feet above my head at all times, this book mostly made me feel like a complete dumbass. I understood the meaning of individual words, sentences, and even the occasional paragraph, but as a whole? I know it's got something to do with sex and car crashes, but after that, I'm out. Actually, that's not quite true. There's also somet
An experimental novel about sex, death, media manipulation, car crashes and celebrity, written at the fag-end of the 1960s and foreshadowing various themes found in his later works. The narrative is very repetitive, with chapters telling versions of more or less the same story, and I found it by turns tedious and repellent.

Rather too experimental for my tastes - it has taken me forever to read it, and it's only 184 pages long.
I didn't expect to like or understand this book much. The concept, the experimental nature, drew me to it, but I know it isn't the kind of thing I enjoy. Find interesting, maybe, but not enjoy. The Atrocity Exhibition is so bizarre to me, so lacking in coherent narrative, that it's doubly hard to read.

This book, the central character (such as he is, with his constantly fluctuating name/identity), is just -- it's a very fine portrayal of someone who is completely disturbed. I find myself wonderin

Best read as suggested by the author himself: incompletely and at random.
A book (like Pynchon's V or Burrough's cut-up novels) to experience, not read.

Seriously, you will be immersing your head (if not your heart) into a strangely dis-associative mindspace, made even more disturbing and poignant by its now-fixed place in the past. If THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION was a a marker, a beacon point in time, where are we, mankind, in relation to it now?

Not for everyone, not for the squeamish, not for those looking for a narrative or story, not for the unadventurous, not for the
MJ Nicholls
Ballard's iconic experimental novel presupposing the death of affect and lending itself to the horrible drum loop that opens Joy Division's Closer. Includes such fun words as 'mimetized' and 'buccal' and 'polyperverse.' It's mad. Very mad. And also brilliant.
Giacomo Boccardo
Una raccolta di racconti assolutamente incoerenti tra di loro e con se stessi. Non esiste un filo conduttore e diverse parti risultano alquanto oscure. Ad esempio, uno stesso protagonista assume nomi diversi, magari muore in un racconto e in un altro torna come se niente fosse.

Leggo che questi racconti sarebbero ambientati prevalentemente in una clinica psichiatrica durante una mostra delle opere create dai degenti, mostra alla quale gli stessi non possono prendere parte. Questa dovrebbe essere
Fabio Puzzacacca
Libro letto molto, molto a fatica e, devo dire, con una perenne ed onnipresente perplessità di fondo.
Insomma, la retorica di Ballard è una retorica particolare, che ha qualcosa del beat ma mooolto più all'avanguardia. La narrazione intera sembra svilupparsi attraverso un'enorme ed immenso costrutto d'impressioni e connessioni inconscie, quasi insensate, come a volerci semplicemente comunicare COSA nella società è perverso e sporco, senza l'interferenza dell'azione e ricostruendo processi di natu
Eric Phetteplace
I suspect that most people would find this work either confusing or repetitive, but I tolerate fragmented prose extremely well and enjoyed it immensely. The chapters are more like short stories, each broken into a paragraph which has a bold title (there's a definite resemblance to the Aeolus chapter of Joyce's "Ulysses"); in the last few chapters, these bold titles can be read sequentially as a sentence or two echoing the content of the chapter. There are many tropes which repeat (certain celebr ...more
David Raffin
JG Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition” would, perhaps, be best enjoyed by fans of William Burroughs. Ballard was a great fan of Burroughs and Burroughs here provides the preface. My dirty secret is that I have never been a great fan of Burroughs. I like his voice (and I mean his verbal, performing voice) and sometimes I like his poetry, but his work as a whole simply does not resonate with me. Unfortunately the same can be said with The Atrocity Exhibition. I wanted very much to like this book m ...more
Aug 18, 2007 Jim rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is up to the challenge of non-linear fiction.
You have to wonder about a book where the author suggests in his introduction that you flick through the book till a paragraph catches your eye and start from there. If you do that then okay. Treat it like a book of flash-fiction and it works fine. Ballard can write let me assure you and knowing that is a good place to start if you decide to attempt this book. I had a similar response to Beckett's How It Is with its peculiar linguistic style but I kept telling myself, Beckett is a genius so, if ...more
Undeniably disturbing but hauntingly memorable, The Atrocity Exhibition is difficult to rate, review or even describe. Utterly unconventional in every way, it is a diverse collection of largely unconnected snippets – some are narrative-based while others are fictitious scientific reports. Together they form a monstrous, disjointed portrait of violence, eroticism and celebrity. It's a satirical exploration of what types of grotesque, violent injuries are the most sexually arousing. (Although, suc ...more
Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition" is a bold experiment in book marketing. Don't know why everyone insists on calling it a novel. The title itself suggests that the stories Ballard has on display (the 'exhibition' of the title) are thematically linked by the theme of "atrocities" - Marilyn, Jackie O, etc.

The book is a novel only in the most general sense - that what Ballard is doing is "new" or unprecedented. But even here, Ballard acknowledges his debt structurally to William S. Burrough's cu
First I have to make clear that this is not the ReSearch annotated edition, but a mass market book from a British publisher Thiad Panther, and issued in 1970. Nevertheless this is a very stimulating book. J.G. Ballard is probably one of the great visionary writers regarding culture as it is now. I want to say he predict what will happen, but I think it was happening when he wrote his series of classic novels, but most of us were not aware of that 'Ballard' world that was and is clearly out there ...more
Jeff Jackson
One of the most visionary books I've read, a startling series of linked stories cataloging mental breakdowns, reenactments of tragic events, sexual obsessions with architectural patterns, the beneficial affects of war atrocity footage, and celebrity sex-death fantasies. Sample chapter titles: "Plan for the Assassination of Jaqueline Kennedy" and "Why I Want to F*** Ronald Reagan." Horrifying, but also tinged with an odd clinical beauty.
Let’s all trip on acid and sit down to our typewriters. Taking Ballard’s example, we can expect to produce strings of nonsense interrupted occasionally by a stroke of brilliance.

However, those strokes of brilliance are too few and far between for me to recommend this book. Dude, the 60’s was weird.

I think I need to give this another look though. More later.
Probably the most abstract of Ballard's writing, crossing over from his more familiar realm of cold/sterile science fiction into hallucinatory territory, slightly reminiscent of Burroughs. It's fun in a morbid way, though the process of reading is difficult since the central narrative is "elusive" at best. It's worthwhile if you're up for the challenge, though.
Wanting to read more Ballard is hardly a contentious ambition, and I’ve read plenty of Ballard already. The 4th Estate editions also made a nice set with their distinctive cover designs, so it was worth picking up copies. Which is what I did. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about Ballard, perhaps preferring the idea of his fiction more than I did his actual fiction – which is itself quite a Ballardian attitude. He was never a great prose stylist, and he was often a better commentator on twenti ...more

"Solo per stomaci forti"

Al netto dello sperimentalismo del romanzo: lasciato ad "asciugare" per qualche decennio, è pur sempre un buon dado ristretto di Letteratura.

Per un corretto consumo: scaldare una pentola d'acqua ed immergervi il dado.

Eccovi un titolo a caso di un capitolo: "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan".

"Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan", "The Assassination of JFK Considered as a Downhill Motor Race", and other unhealthy musings on the sickness of modern western civilization. Ballard puts pop culture into the context it deserves - that of sickness.
"Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan" is one of the few proven antidotes to a fatal dose of FOX News. Keep it handy.
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Ballard's Greatest Hits 3 18 Aug 10, 2014 06:55AM  
  • J.G. Ballard (RE/Search #8/9)
  • Nova Express (The Nova Trilogy #3)
  • Country Of The Blind (Jack Parlabane, #2)
  • Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding, #2)
  • Heavy Water and Other Stories
  • The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick
  • How the Dead Live
  • Ice
  • Automated Alice (Vurt, #3)
  • Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Deception
  • Blind Man with a Pistol (Harlem Cycle, #8)
  • Ratner's Star
  • Tours of the Black Clock
  • My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man
James Graham "J. G." Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on a ...more
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