Chris's Reviews > Crash

Crash by J.G. Ballard
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's review
Mar 21, 2008

really liked it
Recommended for: perverts of the most sordid rank
Read in March, 2008

There are very few movies even remotely interesting enough to warrant reading the book it was adapted from; but back in the glorious years of the late 1990’s, when I saw David Cronenberg’s masterful adaptation of “Crash”, I knew there was absolutely no way I could go wrong with the book. Let’s face it, there is absolutely no way that you can sit through the entirety of the film and not get it on with whoever happens to be in close proximity, but just make sure there is someone there, even if it’s a she-male, because if you dare watch this alone, at some point you will accost your car, and you’ll wake up in an uncomfortable daze, reeking of grease, gasoline, wiper fluid, and engine coolant. Despite whatever indicators might be misleading you on the dashboard, your car does not need to be ‘serviced’ like that. Only two things ever happen in Crash; two or more ill-omened vehicles are pulverizing one another, or people are getting their freak on in ways I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. Usually these two common elements are occurring simultaneously. I figured this would be a great read on a flight to Seattle back at the time, seeing as the purpose of my trip was basically to reenact the book, minus the car wrecks. I wasn’t ready for it.

Now, having re-read it almost exactly a decade later, I had finally come to believe I was ready for it having broadened my horizons and added unspoken volumes to my life experiences. What a fool I am.

Before going any further, I need to note that I love the way Ballard writes; while the end of the book somewhat tails off in my opinion, the sh!t this guy comes up with and the way he works each word to his own unfathomable ends is a delight to read. Considering that a great deal of this book centers almost exclusively on esoteric automobile components and body parts you’ve never heard your mother mention, Ballard finds a way to pick it up and put it to bed without the least difficulty, somehow leaving the reader anxious to discover how the characters are going to copulate with/in a vehicle and indelibly mark it with their own vile secretions during their next perverse endeavor. As an added bonus, after a single reading you’ll also have the ability to keep of your half of the most twisted and flagrantly homosexual conversation going on at the ‘Manhole’. You may never need to, but the fact you can is reassuring; there’s a slight sense of accomplishment even in seldom-employed skill sets.

Now for the warning. Do not read this while taking mass transit, especially the part where Ballard intricately describes Catherine Ballard’s grooming habits. You’ll be looking at that weird, large, muttering woman on the train with the huge sunglasses, disgustingly wondering if she goes through the same routine, and you’ll be spending the rest of the ride knowing you’ve just swallowed back a little of your own vomit, something we can all do without.

Anyway, the story centers on James Ballard (where the author gets his ideas for his characters monikers is beyond my reasoning), a well-to-do commercial director who has an apparently open marriage to his wife, Catherine, and seems like quite a space-cadet to begin with. There’s no benefit to his physical or mental condition when he f*cks up while driving and ends up in a head-on collision, which leaves the driver of the other car dead and the passenger a widow. James winds up maimed, and spends a good deal of time recovering from the wounds he’s sustained, and upen being released from the hospital, finds he’s been under the surveillance of Vaughan, a heavily-scarred maniac and patron saint of those deformed in auto crashes. Immediately, Ballard is drawn into Vaughan’s lifestyle and inner circle of car-wreck-enthusiasts; Seagrave, an oft-concussed crossdresser and stuntman, Gabrielle, a hot piece of deformed ass (for a lesbian opium-addict), and Helen Remington, the heavily-bruised widow of Ballard’s victim. What can such a group of malcontents get up to? I’ll spare the details of mutual masturbation while watching filmed automobile collisions, visiting wreckage sites to photograph the gruesome aftermath while working themselves into a sexual frenzy, and fulfilling those desires savagely by engaging in some ridiculous and completely insane all-orifice buggery in either a moving or completely totaled car, involving every possible pairing of characters at one point or another. Ballard covers all the bases; gay sex, straight sex, even people vigorously rubbing their aching loins against a front-quarter-panel while inspecting a mangled car for a little satisfaction.

The point of the book? I don’t see one. Luckily, J.G. Ballard does, so I’ll let his introduction address that. According to Ballard, “Crash” is ‘an extreme metaphor for an extreme situation’, in which he has ‘used the car not only as a sexual image, but as a total metaphor for man’s life in today’s society’. He goes so far as to explain that ‘the ultimate role of Crash is cautionary, a warning against that brutal, erotic, and overlit realm that beckons more and more persuasively to us from the margins of the technological landscape.’ I’ll be honest; I have no clue what this f*cking lunatic is talking about; the message I got from Crash was that I’m hanging out with all the wrong people: I should be devoting my time looking for companionship amongst the edge-walking dare-devils of the world, those unafraid to take that toke over the line and lay it all on the line, the type of decadent folk that don’t even consider you might be referring to a seatbelt when you mention ‘wearing protection’ during a collision.
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Quotes Chris Liked

J.G. Ballard
“After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.”
J.G. Ballard, Crash

Reading Progress

02/16 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny I don't drive. But I liked your review all the same.

notgettingenough I have to confess, that I find it impossible to watch the movie, though I imagine reading the book might be different. Have you ever actually been in a bad car crash? I'm not sure, if you have, how you could find the idea of sex and car crashes bearable. I dare say I should be more open-minded, but...

message 3: by Manny (new)

Manny Um, don't get the impression that I think this book is anything other than insane!

message 4: by Adam (new) - added it

Adam Stauthamer Thanks for the review...I loved the movie about 15 years ago, think I am going to have to pick up the book

message 5: by Marius (new)

Marius Chris has such a talent! Too bad he doesn't write anymore

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