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The Atrocity Exhibition (Flamingo Modern Classics) Paperback – May 21, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Easily one of the 20th century's most visionary writers, J. G. Ballard still lives 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 features an introduction by William S. Burroughs, extensive text commentary by Ballard, and four additional stories. Of specific interest are the illustrations by underground cartoonist and professional medical illustrator Phoebe Gloeckner. Her ultrarealistic images of eroticism and destruction add an important dimension to Ballard's text. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'The zenith of the experimental novel in English' Will Self 'Brilliant and unnerving ... Ballard is a writer with talent to burn' The Times 'These stories - "condensed novels", Ballard has called them - are a high-water mark in English experimental fiction' New York Times 'A powerful book ... Phrase and image are constantly disturbing and stimulating' Sunday Telegraph 'The terrifying thing about Ballard is his logic; is this science fiction or history written ahead of its time?' Len Deighton

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Product Details

  • Series: Flamingo Modern Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; 60064th edition (May 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007116861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007116867
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Interest in Ballard's work is sure to be stirred by the controversial film of his novel, "Crash." "The Atrocity Exhibition" shares many of the same characters and themes. In fact, of the two works, "Atrocity Exhibition" is the better: it pushes the artistic conventions of fiction to the limits to explore the degenerating mental landscape of the protagonist. Against a nightmarish postmodern background of unethical psychological experiments gone awry and obsession with media icons, even questions of simple identity become impossible to unravel. Travis/Travers/Traven/Talbot is pushed to madness and perhaps even murder - one character seems to die in four seperate scenes! - by his co-workers, fellow psychiatrists at a teaching hospital. Modern architecture becomes confused with perverted sexuality as the protagonist projects his fantasies of Elizabeth Taylor onto high rise apartment buildings. This edition is a gem. It contains four additional Ballard stories, a preface by William S. Burroughs, and deranged illustrations by Phoebe Gloeckner who juxtaposes her world- renowned medical illustrations with images of disturbing eroticism and mechanization. Provocative, exhilarating and terrifying, Ballard sucks the reader into the psychosis of his characters. This work is Ballard's literary masterpiece. After reading it, the world seems a much scarier place.
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Format: Paperback
You're in for a bumpy ride...
The Atrocity Exhibition is an perversely original, deeply disturbing tale of the `New Reality', and the disintegration of Society. It is bursting at the seams with a ferocious wit, sexuality and, always a key Ballard theme, much railing against the irrational, all-pervading violence of the modern world. He writes with a spare, exact prose that almost makes his subject matter inviting, drawing us along irresistibly. His is the dark poetry of reason, rationalising the truly irrational. Beautiful words evoking hideous imagery. Sex and violence have never been so intrinsically linked. He wishes to arouse our dormant sensibilities, to shock us, perhaps test our tolerance threshold.
Much in common with Ballard's later Crash, this hauntingly powerful novel employs Burroughsesque non-linear techniques to convey his controversial ideas. The text is broken up into composite bands of sub-heading and paragraph, giving the reading a very fragmentary feel, and like The Naked Lunch it can be dipped into at any stage of its development with satisfying results. The prose exists in isolation, the essence of good writing. The barely-plotted, minimalist storyline reflects the central character's inner mindscape haunted by dreams of JFK and Monroe, dead astronauts and motor-crash victims, as he traverses the terrible wastes of nervous breakdown. Seeking his sanity, he casts himself in a number of roles: H-bomber pilot, presidential assassin, psychopath. Finally, through the black, perverse magic of violence he transcends his psychotic turmoil to find the key to a bizarre new sexuality.
The Atrocity Exhibition is cleverly controlled tour de force of inventive writing. Every page filled with death, depravity, delusion, genocide, or some other unspeakable vice.
We are disgusted at our own enjoyment.
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Format: Paperback
Again Ballard is perverting our perceptions of life. You can either see that as a good thing or a bad thing. It's not an easy book to read. In fact at some times you may end up feeling frustrated with the book but if you persevere with it it'll be alright...once you have his notes explaining the book to you but even then he still leaves you to think about the nature of what it is all about
What I think the book is about is the whole cult of celebrity fame and the ever narrowing medical definition of it's conditions. What we see is that today's world is leading us to be dehumanized neurotic people with dangerous and repressed fetishes. Again the contents of Crash appear hear but in prequel form. He was only starting out his ideas of Vaughan's crazed nature and so on. There is also the reinactment of many of the car crashes such as JFK and Elizabeth Taylor and so on.
They say the book is experimental in it's approach. I'm not much of a book hound so I don't know what the hell they mean but it certainly one which is different in it's topical approach. Perhaps it could be said that it is experimental because it kinda reads as a magazine - a sort of doctor's journal where even the doctors are as insane as you are. You can read any part of it that you like and go over it again and again to suit your fancy. But it still holds out an enigma that will not make itself clear
Frustrating and not altogether enjoyable but it's a book that gets you thinking and makes you wonder - How messed up are we?
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Format: Paperback
The short stories (or "condensed novels" as Ballard refers to them) that comprise this astonishing novel can be taken as a series of snapshots of a man in the still centre of a catastrophic psychological breakdown.
The almost static nature of large parts of the book (intensified by sterile settings such as hotel rooms, institutional buildings, multilane highways - in short transitional places with no value other than their ability to lead elsewhere) are due to the main character having lost any awareness of the passage of time.
He has been hollowed out by his mental crash and has filled that emptiness with a timeless and undiscriminating apprehension of everything around him - and this is where the danger of the book comes from. Where, Ballard asks, would someone who saw the world as a series of discrete and unconnected things (and this, perhaps, is where those obsessive lists that intersperse the book come from) start to assign priorities among those things, to start re-building some coherent picture of this chaos of images.
The answer is that Travis (or Traven or Tallis or whoever it is behind the masks the "hero" manufactures) takes the most powerful images he finds as the basis of his new world - and according to Ballard those would be of sex, violence and celebrity.
And so T**** wanders through a empty world watched over by the vast, indifferent and no longer even vaguely human images of fame, finding as much to be aroused by in the gentle but swift rippling of the bodies of two colliding cars as in the complexly intersecting forms of two human bodies.
And yet this flattened affective landscape acquires a topography as T**** learns to, firstly, simply accept this world and then to rejoice in the strange freedom it gives him.
Read more ›
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