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High-Rise
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Chaos Reading Bookclub > DISCUSSION OPEN! HIGH-RISE Group Read *spoilers*

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message 1: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (last edited Nov 15, 2012 05:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
برج by J.G. Ballard High-Rise by J.G. Ballard High Rise  by J.G. Ballard High-Rise by J.G. Ballard Condominium by J.G. Ballard High-Rise by J.G. Ballard Rascacielos by J.G. Ballard High-Rise  by J.G. Ballard Gökdelen by J.G. Ballard

YAY! The winner of the poll for the next Group Read book is High-Rise by J.G. Ballard!

WHEN
Discussion Starts: Sunday 16 Nov, 2012 Monday 19th November, 2012
(If we need more time we can extend this)


WHAT
The winner of the "Inner City Living... And Dying" theme poll: High-Rise

HOW
On the set date, I'll start a discussion thread for this, with a spoiler warning. I might throw in a few suggested discussion topics to get the ball rolling as well. In the meantime, people can stop by this thread to chat as they go, but no spoilers until discussion opens please. Feel free to post any interesting articles or other "Bonus Material" you come across to do with the book or the writer.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
173 pages, first published 1977.

SYNOPSIS:An unnerving tale of life in a modern tower block running out of control. Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem.

In this visionary tale of urban disillusionment from the renowned author of Crash and Cocaine Nights, society slips into a violent reverse as the isolated inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, recreate a dystopian world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

LEGACY:
- The book has been cited as an influence upon the Doctor Who episode Paradise Towers.
- For over 30 years, British producer Jeremy Thomas has wanted to do a film version of the book. It was nearly made in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg. However, financing fell through and Roeg and Thomas did Bad Timing instead, and Thomas later went on to adapt Ballard's Crash for the screen with director David Cronenberg. In recent times Thomas has revisited High-Rise, and the project has been in development with Canadian filmmaker Vincenzo Natali attached to write and direct.


message 2: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
There are some fantastic covers for this book. The reason it's taken me so long to get a copy is because I really wanted one particular cover, but now I'm thinking they're all pretty cool!


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments I was just going to say that I love how you put all the different covers at the top of the thread. There are definitely some awesome ones!


message 4: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Normally I have to hunt around a bit for the good ones, but I don't think there really were any High-Rise covers that were dull!


message 5: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Squee! No spoilers, but my copy just arrived and the first 10 words are the best opening half a sentence for a book ever. Love it!

Also, they fucked up and sent me the cover I was after all along. :)


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments I'm on the hold list at my library! Hoping I'll be able to pick up my copy soon.


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments For some reason High-Rise keeps disappearing from my library hold list! I distinctly remember placing the hold at least 3 times, but then when I go back to check if it's going to be ready for pickup soon it's not listed!

What. The. Fuck.

Trying this again...


message 8: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
At least it's a pretty quick read!

If there are a few people wanting to start the discussion a bit later, I'm happy to extend the date...


Matthew Hunter Ruby wrote: "At least it's a pretty quick read!

If there are a few people wanting to start the discussion a bit later, I'm happy to extend the date..."


Hi Ruby,
I should be done with High-Rise by Monday (19 Nov) or so. Extending the date might be helpful, especially with the Library Hold-gate that Riona's experiencing. Hang in there Riona!


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "Extending the date might be helpful, especially with the Library Hold-gate that Riona's experiencing. Hang in there Riona! ..."

It's those snotty bastards on the upper floors, I'm sure of it!


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments The website says it's in transit now! I have no idea what was happening before, some kind of weird disappearing book glitch I guess.


message 12: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "Matthew wrote: "Extending the date might be helpful, especially with the Library Hold-gate that Riona's experiencing. Hang in there Riona! ..."

It's those snotty bastards on the upper floors, I'm ..."


Hehehe. Sounds just like them.


message 13: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Monday 19th works for me. We'll extend the discussion start date.


message 14: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (last edited Nov 16, 2012 04:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
I finished the book today and my copy has some great additional content in the back. Firstly there was the short story, "Intensive Care Unit", which is excellent. If you enjoyed High-Rise, this story is well worth tracking down. There was some great biographical info, including Ballard's favourite books and an outline of his writing process. There was also an interview with Ballard ("An Investigative Spirit") by Travis Elborough.

Sadly none of these extra bits are available online, but the interview with Elborough mentions that Ballard and his family were in a Japanese internment camp during WWII, (see Empire of the Sun), which obviously had a huge influence on his writing. In particular, it's the awareness that any given moment the society you know can disappear, and the rules of civilisation cease to be relevant. Also, Ballard's family's moved to England after they left Shanghai, providing a rich source of inspiration. He saw post-war England as "shabby" and "a disaster area", and found the class system to be ludicrous. He saw that tv, jet travel, consumerism and globalisation were coming along to change things, and was excited to watch what would happen. You can clearly see these themes shining through in High-Rise I think...... but we can talk about that later!

Anyway, in trying to find these articles online to post here, I came across this fantastic analysis of High-Rise by Rick McGrath: http://www.jgballard.ca/criticism/hig...
There are some really good discussion points there, which I would love to hear people's views on when the discussion starts.


I also came across this site: www.ballardian.com - It's a good site to trawl if you're interested in exploring some of Ballard's themes in a more academic way. There's also an interview with Michael Moorcock about his friend, JG Ballard:
Angry Old Men: Michael Moorcock on J.G. Ballard

I'm ITCHING to start this discussion now........!


Karen (escapeartist) | 167 comments I am happy the date has been extended as I am not done yet. Ruby, I thought Empire of the Sun was a great book. I remember reading when they were making the movie, Ballard told Spielberg that the experience left him with a deep seated mistrust of almost everything. The movie is one of my favorites


message 16: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
It's not something I would probably think to read if I wasn't so besotted with Ballard right now. I just ordered another 3 of his books immediately upon finishing this one!


message 17: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
MEEP! I missed the start of the discussion! For some reason, I was thinking it was due to start today. My apologies!

I hardly know where to begin with this one. Luckily, I am "en-couched by flu" today so I have time to think about it. I'm off to trawl through my notes, but if anyone would like to start in the meantime - go right ahead :)

Ballard - High-Rise


message 18: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Okay, having collected my thoughts, here are the points I think worth mentioning:

*I loved the book. Just fucking LOVED the book. As in, "I will read everything this author ever wrote" loved the book. My first impression was that this is Lord of the Flies for adults. I enjoyed this a lot more than I did Golding's book.

*If I had one complaint though, it would be this: From page one, there was never any doubt that this breakdown of established societal norms would happen. There is nothing special about this particular high-rise or these particular people. This all seemed to happen by sheer dint of modern high-rise design. So the assumption must have been that this is the inevitable consequence of high-rise living. Even in when the book was written, we knew better. So for me, it would have worked better to put in some kind of catalyst to explain the phenomenon.

*The gender roles were really interesting. Ballard focuses on three men: one each from the three "classes" of tenants. People seemed to revert quite quickly to hunter/gatherer roles, but in the end, the women triumph. Why do we think it turns out this way? Would others have liked to have read more of this from the female perspective?

*I liked the tribalism of the floor numbers - people scrawling their floor number on walls, wearing them written on their foreheads etc. I was surprised that these new tribes didn't last very long.

*The voyeurism was a nice touch, with people taking polaroids and film of violent events, to the extent that negatives were littering the floors. I liked this quote in particular, "What depraved species of electric flora would spring to life from the garbage-strewn carpets of the corridors in response to this new source of light?"

* "Even their insistence on educating their children, the last reflex of any exploited group before it sank into submission, marked the end of their resistance." This is an interesting point, particularly given the destruction of so many aboriginal cultures here in Australia. I know a lot of communities see educating their kids in English as the way to save their communities, but while acknowledging the loss of culture that this entails. In a way, it is a form of submission.

*Also, I love that in the future people will have vinyl records and polaroids again. That makes me very happy :)

"Let the psychotics take over. They alone understood what was happening."
Words to live by...


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments Okay I'm not reading any of that last post because I haven't started High-Rise yet and I'm afraid of spoilers. In any case, it is apparently (finally!) waiting for me at the library, so I'll pick it up tomorrow and get started!


message 20: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Sorry, Riona. I've added a spoiler warning in the thread title. Group Read discussions will usually have some spoilers though. Can't wait for you to finish. I loved this book.


message 21: by Ben (last edited Nov 20, 2012 10:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben (bennywisest) | 62 comments I will start off by saying I really enjoyed High-Rise. It reminded me alot of Kingdom Come - J.G. Ballard (which I believe was Ballard's final novel). Without spoiling Kingdom Come, there were alot of similarities between the two novels, with High-Rise being an all around better book.

I would have to agree with Ruby and say that the first sentence was great! It built up for the action in the novel and really pulled myself in from the start.

"Now the new order had emerged, in which all life within the high-rise revolved around three obsessions-security, food and sex."
This line makes the point of just the everyday minor inconveniences of dealing with neighbors in an apartment complex will revert the "Well-to-Do" back into a primitive state, but even worse they will ENJOY this reversion. These upper-middle/upper class professionals all need this violence to fill a void in their lives, a chance to reach back to primal instincts.

Ballard always appears to be a writer I would really like to read more of, but each time I feel a little underwhelmed with his novels. Only having read 2 of his novels, I know I'm dealing with a small sample size, but I think it has to do with his writing style. He is creative and writes compelling stories but I notice he tends to get a little preachy and really hammers his points home. When he is adding social commentary he will say the same thing three different ways in the span of a page or two. Because of this I noticed that the first quarter of the book flies by as I read, but I tend to get bogged down in the middle 50% then the pace quickens for the end. He writes great beginnings and ends to novels, but in High-Rise since we get right into the action early, it tends to wear thin.

He does succeed in writing a perverse look at everyday modern 9-5 life though. The kind of thing that you don't think would ever happen, but might be lingering just behind the curtain waiting for that one last event to set it all off.

I don't live in a high rise or a large enclosed apartment building, but does anyone else have any pertinent experience with underlying hostilities that are just waiting for that last little push to send the building into all out warfare? Is this something you could see happening (maybe not to the degree the novel took)?

After thinking about the novel I believe I will try some of his short fiction, The Complete Short Stories, it just seems to me that he would work better with short fiction. Or at least we get to take a glimpse through many different small windows into Ballard's imaginative world.


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments Ruby wrote: "Sorry, Riona. I've added a spoiler warning in the thread title. Group Read discussions will usually have some spoilers though. Can't wait for you to finish. I loved this book."

No need to apologize! I knew there would be spoilers, which is why I just skimmed past. I'll be joining the discussion soon enough


message 23: by Karen (last edited Nov 20, 2012 12:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karen (escapeartist) | 167 comments A. wrote: "Ballard's tone from the beginning is one of inevitability. There's no build-up of tensions, no catalyst to start the 'disturbances' and absolutely no reason(believable or not) as to why it all happened." And I agree. There is no suspense here and I found no characters to emphasize with. Also, I preferred Goldings Lord of the Flies because both sides, good and evil were engaged. There is no good in High-Rise. Even in the beginning, these characters are full of petty traits, envy, greed etc. and not a good soul in sight. As for the violence and breakdown of order, since the last book I read was Scorch Atlas, this book reads like Anne of Green Gables by comparison. I am surprised by my reaction as I read most of Ballards works years ago and enjoyed them. Empire of the Sun is still one of my favorite books.


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
I've read a lot of J.G. Ballard (although not for awhile) and have always liked his short fiction more than his novels. I never really thought about it, but I think Ben has hit on one of the reasons. Ballard deals in surreal situations, usually plopping his characters in the middle of them without bothering excessively with the nuts and bolts of getting there. In short stories,I think you tend to accept that you are reading a slice of life, and don't fret as much about why things are the way they are.

Also, as far as explanations, High Rise was written in 1975, when many people considered the break down of civilization a given.


Karen (escapeartist) | 167 comments Ben wrote: "I don't live in a high rise or a large enclosed apartment building, but does anyone else have any pertinent experience with underlying hostilities that are just waiting for that last little push to send the building into all out warfare? Is this something you could see happening (maybe not to the degree the novel took)?" It's funny you would mention that because as I was reading this I was thinking of the large corporate environment where I spent most of my working years, the back stabing, the behind closed doors politics etc. that went on and the open hostilities between different departments.


message 26: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Ben wrote: "I don't live in a high rise or a large enclosed apartment building, but does anyone else have any pertinent experience with underlying hostilities that are just waiting for that last li..."

It's funny, but I've found the opposite. Working in very large government offices for many years, usually on open plan floors, I've found people to be acutely aware of the impact of their actions on other people. I've recently been working in an extremely small office, and people seem incredibly self-centred and hostile in comparison!

I thought there was enough exposition of the character's traits - Wilder's childhood issues, Laing's marriage, Royal's accident - and how they manifested in their new version of society. He even says of Wilder, something along the lines of "He would climb a mountain equipped only with his sense of irritation that it was bigger than him."

I felt that the fact nobody called the police was touched on a few times too. People felt automatically protective of their new world order and went to insane lengths to protect themselves from prying eyes. They would have killed anyone who suspected them, and I find this believable from a psychological perspective. I think the book is more an exploration of human psychology than anything else. On an intuitive level, it feels realistic enough to me. I just think there needs to be a catalyst to kick it off.

I like the fact that the book doesn't pit "good against evil". Life is rarely that black and white.


message 27: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
What I'd love to have seen more exploration of was the gender split in the book. How did the women end up taking control? Why?

Was it perhaps because they played more to intellect than instinct? While the men were indulging their baser whims, often in infantile ways, the women had some sort of longer-term strategy in mind.

I think maybe this bit about the young woman in the "lakeside pavilion" gives us a clue to this: "She had accepted him as she would any marauding hunter. First she would try to kill him, but failing this give him food and her body, breast-feed him back to a state of childishness and even, perhaps, feel affection for him. Then, the moment he was asleep, cut his throat. The synopsis of the ideal marriage."

Then again, it could just indicate that all women are evil, conniving bitches :P Any thoughts?


message 28: by Karen (last edited Nov 25, 2012 02:30PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karen (escapeartist) | 167 comments Ruby wrote: "What I'd love to have seen more exploration of was the gender split in the book. How did the women end up taking control? Why?

Was it perhaps because they played more to intellect than instinct? W..."
This is an interesting question. There are times during the story when the women seem almost passive as events surround them. My guess is yes, the women were able to see some long term goal that would unify them in victory where the men were unable to unify and instead split into warring groups. Also, the women exercised self countrol, picking and choosing their actions while the men seemed to be mostly driven by the increasing lawless environment that they were creating. And, last thought, there is always the fact that the earliest societies were ruled by women not men and those women would probably have echoed the sentiments of the 'lakeside pavilion' lady.


message 29: by Jan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jan Schindler | 62 comments A. wrote: "Ruby wrote: "*I loved the book. Just fucking LOVED the book. As in, "I will read everything this author ever wrote" loved the book. My first impression was that this is Lord of the Flies for adults..."

The only reason why I finished this book was because of the discussion. I agree with A. The book is boring and pointless, one star.


message 30: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
I can understand people not liking the book or finding it boring, since it's a matter of personal preferences.

I do think there's a point to it though. And Ballard intended there to be a point: To present an extreme hypothesis and prompt the reader to consider and decide whether or not they agree.


http://www.jgballard.ca/criticism/hig... - According to this piece, Ballard's hypothesis was "that living in a motherly machine will allow your neurons to re-wire into whatever psycho state you've been unconsciously repressing in the "real" world"

I will say that this wasn't quite the hypothesis I picked up, though. I thought his hypothesis was more about how the rules of civilised society can so easily break down, that people revert to their baser nature (which in his stories is pretty grim) given half a chance. This was his own personal experience in a WWII internment camp, and I've read interviews where he discusses this point.


message 31: by Jan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jan Schindler | 62 comments Ruby wrote: "I can understand people not liking the book or finding it boring, since it's a matter of personal preferences.

I do think there's a point to it though. And Ballard intended there to be a point: To..."


Thanks, Ruby,

I usually don't like reading a book knowing what the writer's intentions were but with

High-Rise it may have helped me. Understanding he was using his WWII experience in writing the book helps but I can't seem to get beyond the notion that there was at least ONE sane person in the group? Are we really savages underneath the thin smear of civilization? I hope we have evolved beyond that but as I think of world situations today maybe Ballard wasn't all that extreme.......hmmmmm.....ok 2 stars


message 32: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Hehe. Let's see if we can make it three........ Wait. I'm thinking of something....... :)


Riona (rionafaith) | 457 comments I finished this a couple days ago but have had a crazy work week so I didn't get a chance to post until now. I also read it in little fits and spurts, and I think I might have enjoyed it more if I'd been able to dedicate more time -- it's only been a few days and I'm already really fuzzy on the details of what happened throughout the novel. That said, I enjoyed the absurdity and surrealism of it. The Lord of the Flies comparison is apt.

I'm definitely going to be picking up more of Ballard's work.


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod



message 35: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: ""

Bahahaha! I'd read them.


Микола Петренко | 1 comments Just now enjoying greatly this book. It's very metaphoricall. All that happens in the "high rise" makes me think that it's about how civilized country became Russia.


message 37: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Микола wrote: "Just now enjoying greatly this book. It's very metaphoricall. All that happens in the "high rise" makes me think that it's about how civilized country became Russia."

That's an interesting perspective. Care to elaborate?


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
Look, this New York city high-rise will have separate entrances for rich and poor tenants! What could possibly go wrong?
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/nyr...


message 39: by Derek (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 782 comments That's such a non-story. They have a development agreement with the city that says they have to provide a certain amount of subsidized housing. Since the development agreement doesn't say they have to intersperse the subsidized housing throughout the development, of course they build them separately, with separate entrances.

I used to live in a high-rise with subsidized units. Only the people living in subsidized units knew they were subsidized—which is the only way to do it, imo.


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "That's such a non-story. ..."

Thanks for your critique, Derek. And here I was afraid that people would think my post was meant as an amusing reference to the book under discussion instead of as Very Important Breaking News in need of serious scrutiny and contentious refutation.


Jennifer | 363 comments It's all beyond me. I truly can't comprehend that kind of life/life style.


message 42: by Derek (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 782 comments Whitney wrote: "Thanks for your critique, Derek. And here I was afraid that people would think my post was meant as an amusing reference to the book under discussion instead of as Very Important Breaking News in need of serious scrutiny and contentious refutation. "

Sorry, I was just commenting on the fact that the media has turned this commonplace event into a big story. They've devoted hours to it on CBC radio in the last few weeks.


message 43: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
But when will JG's prophecy come to pass, I ask you?! When?! By now we should've had half the world's developed cities reduced to smoking piles of man-made jungle. He seemed so sure about high rise living..


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
The trailer for the movie. I love that they went with the 70's aesthetic. Plus, Tom Hiddleston.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i60Lj...


message 45: by Guy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Guy Portman (GuyPortman) | 37 comments Hope you all enjoy High Rise. A fascinating premise. I quite liked it.


Whitney | 1320 comments Mod
Guy, this book discussion actually started a couple years ago, but please feel free to revive the discussion if you have anything you'd like to add!


message 47: by Guy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Guy Portman (GuyPortman) | 37 comments Whitney wrote: "Guy, this book discussion actually started a couple years ago, but please feel free to revive the discussion if you have anything you'd like to add!"

Oh! I didn't even notice. Thank you for telling me.


message 48: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] (rubytombstone) | 3260 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "The trailer for the movie. I love that they went with the 70's aesthetic. Plus, Tom Hiddleston.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i60Lj..."


That looks amazing! I love the aesthetic. It matches quite well with the images I have in my mind from the book. It does seem pretty faithful, doesn't it?


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