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The Atrocity Exhibition (Flamingo Modern Classics) Paperback – May 21, 2002
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About the Author
J.G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 bestseller 'Empire of the Sun' won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg.
- Item Weight : 7.1 ounces
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0007116861
- ISBN-13 : 978-0007116867
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 0.52 x 7.76 inches
- Publisher : Flamingo; 60064th edition (May 21, 2002)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #95,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If you are worried about things like plot or character development then you are reading the wrong book. There is no clear beginning or end to the book, and it does not follow any of the standard novel conventions. The main character, Talbert (?) changes name with each chapter, just as his role and his visions of the world around him seem to change constantly. If you insist on a plot, then you must look on it as a man having a series of nervous breakdowns in a mental hospital, or a man who is manipulating reality to cause World War Three.
If you are wondering how such a book became an underground classic, it's all due to shock value. Like Gravity’s Rainbow and Naked Lunch, the unconventional prose is riddled with sexually explicit descriptions and activities. So much was packed in that the book was brought up on various obscenity charges and banned in a host of countries, thus immortalizing it.
The author himself suggest reading it by randomly flipping pages and only taking in those snapshot scenes which catch the eye. This might be the best way, as going through it sequentially is a chore. Another flaw is that this is an obviously boomer book to appeal to the boomer generation. Constant references to people, images, and events from the sixties dates the book severely. While older, well read, people will recognize most of them, but you’d be surprised how many have forgotten them completely.
The book has seen various publications over the years, and various parts have been printed in magazines. Each addition seems to add a little to the whole of the book. Every “chapter” is followed by annotations (many of which are more interesting than the actual text), while the RE/Search edition added a series of stimulating photographs and illustrations. So you’re exact experience with this book will differ greatly depending on which edition you read.
My perspective: The Atrocity Exhibition is a collection of sexual polymorphism
connected to several relationships.
Abstract and surreal, it's like taking a blood-pressure reading
on a dozen characters simultaneously, and all of them generating
the same pulse that keeps the story going.
Top reviews from other countries
The annotation helps as some of the characters referred to in the book have faded from history.
The sexual pathology of the main protagonist is revealed in a series of psychosexual experiments involving the positioning of objects in the geometry of space time. These are attempts to unlock the latent sexuality of, among others, a motorway overpass, a particular arrangement of wrecked cars, or the angle between walls, along with the re-enactment of the (real or imaginary) deaths of the famous in an effort to achieve a sexual ideal; often personified by Elizabeth Taylor.
In each chapter the main character's identity is viewed from another angle, another facet of his personality, and we accompany him through his apparent psychoses. Even his character name changes throughout and sometimes the events and characters appear only in his mind. Other characters, such as Dr Nathan who is our window of rationality in this surreal world, or Karen Novotny the eternal victim, provide their necessary roles in the psychodrama.
I enjoyed reading this book and, having only read one other J.G. Ballard (The Crystal World), will no doubt read another of his work. However, I felt that The Atrocity Exhibition, good though it was, (ironically) didn't really reach the climax I expected. Maybe I just need to read it over again.
The annotation in this edition by J.G. Ballard is essential - although my copy does not have the illustrations mentioned above.