**spoiler alert** "Crash" is a fully-formed novel based on a short-story that Ballard had included in "The Atrocity Exhibition", a collection of disjo**spoiler alert** "Crash" is a fully-formed novel based on a short-story that Ballard had included in "The Atrocity Exhibition", a collection of disjointed dystopian sci-fi, first published in 1972. It also, to me, forms a trilogy with "Concrete Island" and "High Rise" (further explorations of human interaction with technology and what happens when the thin veneer of 'civilisation' breaks down).
The story of the book centres around 'James Ballard', a director of television adverts. He gets into an auto collision and the passenger of the other car is killed. The driver of the other vehicle, a female doctor, is in the same hospital as Ballard and they eventually have sex near the scene of the accident, among many other places. He meets Robert Vaughan, a scientist who used to present a show about the auto and its role in society, as well as the destructiveness of crashes.
Sex and the automobile are the central features in the book. If you've read "The Atrocity Exhibition", you'll recognise Ballard's clinical descriptions of sex acts and of genitals. There's no 'cocks' or 'pussy' or 'he fucked her and she screamed with delight'. It's all 'pereniums' and 'his glans'. To me, it's not sex described for arousal, but described as if observing something alien between an unknown species. I got the feeling that Ballard's (the author) intent was describing alien sex acts involving humans and machines.
Ballard (the character) gets swept up into Vaughan's world of auto(mobile)-eroticism, though he admits early on in the book that he had been fascinated by car crashes and sex. After his accident, the obsession takes him over and Vaughan becomes a conduit for it. They drive around the fictional "London Airport" and hire prostitutes to fulfill their desires, often posturing the women in crash victim poses. Ballard and his wife, Catherine, are serial philanderers and she also has sex with Vaughan in the back of his car, while Ballard is driving.
Vaughan's master plan is to kill Elizabeth Taylor, the actress, in a stylised crash involving sex with her at the moment of the crash. He seems to have done his homework and arranged the meeting with Ballard because he knew of his job and possible proximity to Taylor. As the book goes on, Vaughan gets ever more unstable and more machine-like in his determination to carry out his plan. A stunt-man friend of Vaughan's, Seagrave, tries to sap the moment by killing himself in a crash, while dressed as Taylor, which further unravels Vaughan.
The two key scenes for me, were the crowd watching the slow-motion film of a test-crash, all hynotised by the balletic nature of the horror of a crash. The other is the acid trip sequence toward the end of the book. Both Ballard and Vaughan eat LSD-soaked sugarcubes and drive around their familiar turf. Ballard (the character) nearly melds with the car as the tarmac and concrete ahead morphs into various beautiful visions. Ballard's (the author) writing in these parts is excellent and possibly some of his best and shows he deserves his reputation.
Vaughan attempts to kill Ballard as the acid wears off and a few weeks later, dies as his plan for Taylor fizzles. She emerges from her limousine unscathed, while Vaughan dies bleeding on the road, after being removed from his vehicle. Ballard and Catherine walk among crashed autos in a wreck yard and Ballard knows he will be involved in another crash.
I enjoyed "Crash", though not quite as much as "High Rise" or "Concrete Island". It wasn't the graphic nature of the writing or even the subject matter - I think maybe it was the characters. I didn't find any of them particularly interesting, aside from Vaughan and even he seemed more of a cyborg (maybe that was the point, though). I suppose that really, the cars were meant to be the main characters and the humans were meant to be in thrall to them. Whatever the case, "Crash" does seem a pretty twisted and transgressive book - even more amazing that it was published in 1973....more
I've heard a lot about Tom Robbins's books, both pro and con. I bought "Another Roadside Attraction" ages ago, but never got round to reading it untilI've heard a lot about Tom Robbins's books, both pro and con. I bought "Another Roadside Attraction" ages ago, but never got round to reading it until now. I decided to take the plunge and I was pleasantly surprised.
"A.R.A." seems a sort of parable about the late 1960s counter-culture, with characters you might expect to find, except far more detailed than media stereotypes usually allow. Robbins's prose can put some off, but I enjoyed his vagaries and various historical/zoological/psychological detailing. It's almost sorta Pynchon-lite, with extra humour chucked in.
I won't give away any plot details, but the plot seems secondary to the characters anyway. The real story is in their interactions with each other and their own inner dialogues.
I had always wanted to read more Ambrose Bierce, since tackling "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge", back in grammar school. I never followed up on thI had always wanted to read more Ambrose Bierce, since tackling "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge", back in grammar school. I never followed up on that until late last year, when I purchased this anthology from a local indie bookshop. Robert Anton Wilson and a few others piqued my interest in Bierce again, so I thought I'd give the short stories a go.
This edition collects all of his short stories, published in various newspapers and magazines, up until the time of his mysterious disappearance in Mexico. It's divided up into three 'sections': horror/supernatural, war and "tall tales". While I appreciate the organisational nature of doing so, I have to say that it did take some of the surprise out of some of the stories and highlighted the themes that Bierce used in them. The horror stories suffered the worst from the collating. When I nearly finished the section, I almost 'knew' that the story would involve either a long-abandoned house, or an apparition spotted just around the time that one of the characters in the story had passed away. The war stories were a bit more varied, even though they all take place during the American Civil War (in which Bierce fought).
"Tall tales" show Bierce's contempt for religion and human behavioural foibles, as well as his decimating humour. The (linked) trilogy of stories about a sea captain and his passengers had me laughing aloud at times.
The famed "Occurrence..." is part of the war stories section, concerning a Confederate spy who is facing being hanged above a river (or the eponymous creek). He 'escapes' when the rope breaks and manages to swim downstream, avoiding bullets shot from sentries' rifles. He notices that all of his senses are heightened, being able to see every vein in every leaf on every tree, etc. He makes it back to his home and just as he's about to embrace his wife....well, I'll let you read it. A very well-written and trippy story - it fascinated me when I first read it. There was an educational film produced, based on the story - which our class watched. It left out some of the detail, but really delivered, in terms of the strange nature of the narrative.
I'd recommend this book, if you're looking for some exceptional American writing of the late 19th century - Bierce seemed exceptional. The satire crackles and the bewilderment and horror of war is perfectly portrayed. I rated it four stars not for content, but because of the sectioning of the stories - more variety in the themes would've helped keep the momentum.
The only R.A.W. book I hadn't read is actually a proposed film script that he completed in the late 80s. Most surprising to me was the fact that he neThe only R.A.W. book I hadn't read is actually a proposed film script that he completed in the late 80s. Most surprising to me was the fact that he nearly had financial backing for it..to think, in the U.S. in the 1980s..this may have actually been bank-rolled.
There's no 'plot' as such - just an exposition of Wilson's philosophy, spelled out in jump-cuts, animations and some dialogue. The main premise of it seems to be that it's a document discovered by archeologists 500 years from now. They are using it to decipher just what went on in the "Age of Bullshit" (referring to this moment in history).
If you've read any of his other books, the talking points remain the same. If you haven't, then "Reality Is What..." may not be a good place to start. It's a head-trip, for sure--but easily navigated if you're a R.A.W. fan....more
T.S. was the hepster's hepster. He hung out with some of the Beats, particularly Burroughs (whom he refers to with the moniker "Dr. Benway") and GinsbT.S. was the hepster's hepster. He hung out with some of the Beats, particularly Burroughs (whom he refers to with the moniker "Dr. Benway") and Ginsberg. He wrote the script of "Dr. Strangelove" and accompanied The Stones on part of their 1972 tour. He was even in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention, where he reported on the police brutality.
Sometimes, while reading his stuff - you may sense a familiar style, almost as if you've come across it before. Now, I don't know if it's fair to say that T.S. 'invented' the "gonzo" style, but if he didn't, he was one of the first to incorporate it into mainstream journalism. Long before Hunter S. Thompson became the face of gonzo.
"Now Dig This" is a mixed bag of potential screenplays, interviews, humour pieces he wrote for "The National Lampoon" and stories of his time in Paris in the 1950s. I really enjoyed reading about his exploits, even though some of the Paris ones tended to over-lap.
I recommend it as a good primer from one of the true insiders of the American counter-culture....more
Back to the classics. I picked this up in a charity shop some time ago and I'd been meaning to get to it. Having been half-heartedly introduced to E.ABack to the classics. I picked this up in a charity shop some time ago and I'd been meaning to get to it. Having been half-heartedly introduced to E.A.P. in my middle-school days (reading "The Raven" and "The Cask Of Amontillado" as assigments), I thought I should give him another shot.
Ol' Edgar Allan fared much better this time around. "The Cask.." was much more sinister and calculated than I'd remembered and "The Murders At The Rue Morgue" seemed grislier and even though I 'knew' the ending, still seems cleverly-written. I had never read "The Gold Bug" and it too surprised me, as I was waiting for that macabre Poe denouement and it never appears.
I only give it four stars, because I thought "The Case Of Marie Roget" dragged on a bit and became bogged down in too much detail....more
Daumal's second (and unfinished) novel involves a small group of adventurers searching for the fabled mountain of the title, with a couple of 'storiesDaumal's second (and unfinished) novel involves a small group of adventurers searching for the fabled mountain of the title, with a couple of 'stories-within-a-story' thrown in. It's a quick and fairly easy read and Daumal's Gallic wit also makes for a humorous one.
It is a bit eerie when you reach the end, because the book stops in mid-sentence, like a telephone conversation cut short. Daumal's wife adds a few sketches of how the novel may have progressed, as an afterward, but it still doesn't take away the mystery of what the climbers would find at the top of Mount Analogue....more
I can't add that much to the reviews already posted here. Ballard's specialty is showing what happens to (supposedly) 'civilised' domesticated primateI can't add that much to the reviews already posted here. Ballard's specialty is showing what happens to (supposedly) 'civilised' domesticated primates when the veneer of civilisation is scraped away quickly from them. In Ballard's vision, they revert back to the lower-brain functions of brute survival (at least the male domesticated primates do).
If you allow yourself to be engrossed in this novel - it may terrify and sicken you, but it will haunt you for a little while. Sure, the story may not be entirely plausible--other reviewers have mentioned that someone may have gone to the 'authorities', but Ballard plays on the notion of "What if there were no authorities to go to?" Also, in a few societies (even in the last 100 years or so)--the authorities acted in the same manner as the tennant clans in the high-rise.
There's plenty of symbolism to be explored. The colours: Royal's white coat and his white Alsatian, plus the white birds. Freudian: Laing's hinted-at incestuous relationship with his older sister. Names: Royal (the high-rise's architect/creator), Wilder (geddit?) - the alpha-male of the lower floors. I couldn't figure out if Laing was a hommage or a piss-take of psychologist R.D. Laing.
I won't reveal the twist at the end--but it leaves the high-rise with a tiny bit of hope. If you buy the latest printing, there's a short story included, called "The Intensive Care Unit", written by Ballard in 1977. It almost reads like "High-Rise" in reverse. ...more