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The Atrocity Exhibition Paperback – June 1, 1990
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Pierced by the Sun
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?
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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Michael Battaglia
This review refers to the audio edition only. I have been fascinated by and admired The Atrocity Exhibition since I first encountered it decades ago, before Ballard became as well... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dr. Michael Webb
This is turbo-Sade that probably provides the necessary insight to understand why Erykah Badu felt compelled to make a video of herself stripping in Daley Plaza in Dallas. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Rick Woodward
The twentieth century brought many attempts at a "New Novel", where the traditional narrative and plot structures were intentionally fractured for aesthetic effect. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jeffrey Rubard
An experimental masterpiece. The characters change roles and identities in a novel with no plot nor chronological order at all. Read morePublished 14 months ago by lory lanfranchi
I first read these when they appeared in Moorcock's New Worlds in mid first year at uni. I already admired Ballard as a first rate SF writer but these blew my mind and were on a... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Kindle Customer