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The Atrocity Exhibition

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,800 ratings  ·  296 reviews
Easily one of the 20th century's most visionary writers, J. G. Ballard lived far ahead of his time. Called his "prophetic masterpiece" by many, The Atrocity Exhibition practically lies outside of any literary tradition. Part science fiction, part eerie historical fiction, part pornography, its characters adhere to no rules of linearity or stability. This reissued edition f ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by Re/Search Publications (first published 1970)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  4,800 ratings  ·  296 reviews

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J.L.   Sutton
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
JG Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition is, to put it mildly, an interesting reading experience. Ballard's early and repeated section 'Notes Toward a Mental Breakdown' offers something of a roadmap for the internal landscape presented in this book (novel?). A barrage of images and twisted versions of reality are thrown at the reader along with casual references to WW3, apocalypse and the erotic. Don't look for a narrative thread here. Instead, think about The Atrocity Exhibit as both an assault and ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Disjointed? Yes.
Psychotic? Yes.
Titillating? Occasionally.
Interesting? Of far less interest than could have been expected.

A lot of ramblings about car crashes, sex, Kennedy, all kinds of trauma...
Vit Babenco
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Atrocity Exhibition is something like a shock therapy – it is painstakingly unpleasant but it makes one react.
“Now that sex is becoming more and more a conceptual act, an intellectualization divorced from affect and physiology alike, one has to bear in mind the positive merits of the sexual perversions.”
The Atrocity Exhibition is a series of dreamscapes or, to be more precise, madscapes born in the sick mind of the protagonist – the psychiatrist with the split and fragmented identity. His vi
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.

Paul Bryant
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-novels-aaargh

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
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 60s according to Ballard: a world of mayhem and violence in all their possible shapes and manifestations, from deranged science to the pornographic use of catastrophes by tabloids and TV, in a surreal atmosphere of stillness and extreme acceleration at the same time.

This is not a novel: it's a scrapbook made of pictures from weekly magazines and anatomy manuals, mathematic equations and visual art cryptic references. The text is a series of short paragraphs with apparently (?) unrelated tit
Reading this was like being trapped in a doctor's waiting room and repeatedly bashed in the back of the head with a cast iron frying pan. Not plot driven, not character driven, just a series of graphic montages that just get weirder as the book goes on. At no time during this read could I have explained what was going on, and I was bored silly throughout, with a lot of WTF-did-I-just-read moments. I think the author might have been intended the book to be funny. Perhaps you are not supposed to t ...more
Nate D
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Lark Benobi
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Here is the amazing true story about my experience reading the #2 novel in my J.G. Ballard Binge, The Atrocity Exhibition.

I picked this one up and opened it to a random page…and I read a sentence that was remarkably strange.

Here is the sentence:

He sat on the edge of the water-filled basin, staring into the lucid depths of that exposed placenta.

So I did it again, opening the book to a random page, and got:

The profound anality of the Presidential contender may be expected to dominate the Un
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jay Green
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This and Crash are two of my favourite books, precisely because of their weirdness, because they showed the teenage me that something surprising and original could be done with the novel form beyond the staid and traditional forms foisted upon us as A level English students. (My less fortunate peers in the soft South had to make do with Hermann Hesse.)

Both Crash and the Atrocity Exhibition belong very much to their time, of course, but they do encapsulate a sort of postmodern masculine sociopat
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Michael Battaglia
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For all those people who read "Naked Lunch" and thought, "Gee, I'd like to read more of something like this but with a definite emphasis on the psychosexual aspects of architecture and how it mirrors the collapse of society" then not only have you come to the right place, but there is really nowhere else to go. Or for all those people who believe the world needs at least two books focusing on sexual arousal via the use of car accidents, you are going to be very glad this book exists. But for tho ...more
Murray Ewing
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
As a reader of Ballard, I’ve always preferred his early novels (The Drowned World, The Crystal World) and short stories (those collected in The Disaster Area, The Four-Dimensional Nightmare, and The Overload Man). Read Ballard for any length of time and you know he returns to the same obsessive images and landscapes again and again, often to powerful effect. Well, The Atrocity Exhibition is obsessive Ballard taken to the max. It’s the full Ballardian commedia dell’arte, replaying all the variati ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
MJ Nicholls
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ballard’s iconic experimental novel previewing 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’. Mad and briilliant.
Isabel (kittiwake)
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.
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2009 marked it as will-come-back-to-later-no-really
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
Jan 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
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
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jeff Jackson
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Joseph Spuckler
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british
I can't decide between three or four stars. Completely random paragraphs...sexuality or cars and more importantly car crashes; JFK, Marilyn, Madme Chiang, and somehow ending plastic surgery. No, none of that is a spoiler. There is no plot, climax, or conclusion...just a tangled journey you get lost in.
Sep 22, 2007 rated it did not like it

Best read as suggested by the author himself: incompletely and at random.
Lee Foust
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Atrocity Exhibition is a brilliantly conceived piece of fiction. In fact it's the only novel I know that comes close to the perspicacity regarding the political state of the world of Orwell's 1984. And I mean "political" in the very largest sense of the word--not the partisan tribal party nonsense--but the way we receive information, act upon it, what it means, and how we live both mentally and physically in the modern post-industrial nation state.

As I read I was reminded of Steven Moore's c
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
João Sousa
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well... This is a book I will certainly never forget. And even being finished already, it will not leave my backpack any time soon. It is really hard to rate it. Perhaps like many others (but maybe more than many others), rating this book depends extremely on the expectations one had before starting it.
Drugs were quite popular in the early 70s.
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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
“Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time. It's no coincidence that religious leaders emerge from the desert. Modern shopping malls have much the same function. A future Rimbaud, Van Gogh or Adolf Hitler will emerge from their timeless wastes.” 77 likes
“All over the world major museums have bowed to the influence of Disney and become theme parks in their own right. The past, whether Renaissance Italy or Ancient Egypt, is re-assimilated and homogenized into its most digestible form. Desperate for the new, but disappointed with anything but the familiar, we recolonize past and future. The same trend can be seen in personal relationships, in the way people are expected to package themselves, their emotions and sexuality, in attractive and instantly appealing forms.” 65 likes
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