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Crash: A Novel

Crash: A Novel

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Crash: A Novel

avaliações:
3/5 (37 avaliações)
Comprimento:
243 página
4 horas
Lançado em:
Oct 5, 2001
ISBN:
9781429957250
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

From Scribd: About the Book

After a car accident that caused another occupant's death, narrator J. G. Ballard finds himself drawn to mangled cars and things that remind him of the crash. Meanwhile, former TV scientist Robert Vaughan gathers a group of crash victims around him, hoping to run experiments on them.

Vaughan looks for those who are already alienated by their trauma, seeking to take advantage of them to create the ultimate crash, one that involves blood, semen, engine coolant, and an iconic celebrity. This book will chill you to the bone, a horror that leaves you feeling unsafe and vulnerable; Crash is intense and unexpected.

Lançado em:
Oct 5, 2001
ISBN:
9781429957250
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

J.G. Ballard is the author of numerous books, including Concrete Island, The Kindness of Women, and Crash. He is revered as one of the most important writers of fiction to address the consequences of twentieth-century technology. He lives in England.


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Amostra do Livro

Crash - J. G. Ballard

us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

introduction

by zadie smith

I met J. G. Ballard once—it was a car crash. We were sailing down the Thames in the middle of the night, I don’t remember why. A British Council thing, maybe? The boat was full of young British writers, many of them drunk, and a few had begun hurling a stack of cheap conference chairs over the hull into the water. I was twenty-three, had only been a young British writer for a couple of months, and can recall being very anxious about those chairs: I was not the type to rock the boat. I was too amazed to be on the boat. (Though it was no pleasure barge, more like a Travelodge afloat, with an interior that put you in mind of a Shepperton semi-detached. A Ballardian boat. Everything brown and grey with accents of Tube-seat orange.) I slunk away from the chair-hurlers and walked straight into Ballard. That moon of a face, the shiny tonsure, the lank side-curtains of hair—ghost of a defrocked priest. An agonizing ten-minute conversation followed in which we two seemed put on earth to vivify that colloquial English phrase ‘cross-purposes’. Every book I championed he hated. Every film he admired I’d never seen. (We didn’t dare move on to the visual arts.) The only thing we seemed to have in common was King’s College, but as I cheerily bored him with an account of all the lovely books I’d read for my finals, I could see that moon face curdling with disgust. In the end, he stopped speaking to me altogether, leant against a hollow Doric column, and simply stared.

I was being dull—but the trouble went deeper than that. James Graham Ballard was a man born on the inside, to the colonial class, that is, to the very marrow of British life; but he broke out of that restrictive mould and went on to establish—uniquely among his literary generation—an autonomous hinterland, not attached to the mainland in any obvious way. I meanwhile, born on the outside of it all, was hell-bent on breaking in. And so my Ballard encounter—like my encounters, up to that point, with his work—was essentially a missed encounter: ships passing in the night. I liked the Ballard of Empire of the Sun well enough, and enjoyed the few science-fiction stories I’d read, but I did not understand the novels and Crash in particular had always disturbed me, first as a teenager living in the flight path of Heathrow airport, and then as a young college feminist, warring against ‘phallocentricism’, not at all in the mood for penises entering the leg wounds of disabled lady drivers.

What was I so afraid of? Well, firstly that West London psycho-geography. I spent much of my adolescence walking through West London, climbing brute concrete stairs—over four-lane roads—to reach the houses of friends, whose windows were often black with the grime of the A41. But this all seemed perfectly natural to me, rational—even beautiful—and to read Ballard’s description of ‘flyovers overla[ying] one another like copulating giants, immense legs straddling each other’s legs’ was to find the sentimental architecture of my childhood revealed as monstrosity:

The entire zone which defined the landscape of my life was now bounded by a continuous artificial horizon, formed by the raised parapets and embankments of the motorways and their access roads and interchanges. These encircled the vehicles below like the walls of a crater several miles in diameter.

Those lines are a perfectly accurate description of, say, Neasden along the North Circular, but it can be shocking to be forced to look at the fond and familiar with this degree of clinical precision. (‘Novelists should be like scientists,’ Ballard once said, ‘dissecting the cadaver.’) And Ballard was in the business of taking what seems ‘natural’—what seems normal, familiar and rational—and revealing its psychopathology. As has been noted many times, not least by the author himself, his gift for defamiliarization was, in part, a product of his own unusual biography:

One of the things I took from my wartime experiences was that reality was a stage set … the comfortable day-to-day life, school, the home where one lives and all the rest of it … could be dismantled overnight.

At age fifteen, he left decimated Shanghai, where he’d spent the war, for England, to study Medicine at Cambridge, and found it understandably difficult to take England seriously. This set him apart from his peers, whose habit it was to take England very seriously indeed. But if his scepticism were the only thing different about Ballard he would not be such an extraordinary writer. Think of that famous shot in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, when the camera burrows below the manicured suburban lawn to reveal the swarming, dystopian scene underneath. Ballard’s intention is similar, but more challenging. In Ballard the dystopia is not hidden under anything. Nor is it (as with so many fictional dystopias) a vision of the future. It is not the subtext. It is the text. ‘After this sort of thing,’ asks the car-crash survivor Dr Helen Remington, ‘how do people manage to look at a car, let alone drive one?’ But drive she does, as we all do, slowing down on motorways to ogle an accident. Like the characters in Crash we are willing participants in what Ballard called ‘a pandemic cataclysm that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year and injures millions.’ The death-drive, Thanatos, is not what drivers secretly feel, it’s what driving explicitly is.

‘We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind … We live inside an enormous novel … The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent reality.’ The world as text: Ballard was one of the first British novelists to apply that French theory to his own literary practice. His novels subvert in particular the world that advertising presents, with its irrational convergences sold to us as if they were not only rational but natural. In the case of the auto-mobile, we have long been encouraged to believe there is a natural convergence between such irrational pairs as speed and self-esteem, or leather interiors and family happiness. Ballard insists upon an alternate set of convergences, of the kind we would rather suppress and ignore.

It is these perverse convergences that drive the cars in Crash, with Ballard’s most notorious creation, Dr Robert Vaughan, at the wheel, whose ‘strange vision of the automobile and its real role in our lives’ converges with Ballard’s own. And once we are made aware of the existence of these convergences it becomes very hard to un-see them, however much we might want to.

There is a convergence, for example, between our own soft bodies and the hardware of the dashboard: ‘The aggressive stylization of this mass-produced cockpit, the exaggerated mouldings of the instrument binnacles emphasized my growing sense of a new junction between my own body and the automobile.’ There is a convergence between our horror of death and love of spectacle: ‘On the roofs of the police cars the warning lights revolved, beckoning more and more passers-by to the accident site.’ And there is an acute convergence, we now know, between the concept of celebrity and the car-crash:

She sat in the damaged car like a deity occupying a shrine readied for her in the blood of a minor member of her congregation … the unique contours of her body and personality seemed to transform the crushed vehicle. Her left leg rested on the ground, the door pillar realigning both itself and the dashboard mounting to avoid her knee, almost as if the entire car had deformed itself around her figure in a gesture of homage.

This vision of a fictional Elizabeth Taylor—written twenty-five years before the death of Princess Diana—is as prescient as anything in Ballard’s science fiction. How did he get it so right? How did he know that the price we would demand, in return for our worship of the famous and beautiful (with their unique bodies and personalities) would be nothing less than the bloody sacrifice of the worshipped themselves? Oh, there were clues, of course: the myth of decapitated Jayne Mansfield, Jimmy Dean with his prophetic licence plate (‘Too fast to live, too young to die’), Grace Kelly’s car penetrated by a tree. But only Ballard saw how they were all related, only he drew the line of convergence clearly. Once you see you cannot un-see. What are all the DUIs of Lindsay Lohan if not a form of macabre foreplay?

Still, it’s easy to be shocked the first time you read Ballard. I was for some reason scandalized by this convergence of sex and wheels, even though it is enshrined in various commonplaces (not to mention the phrase ‘sex on wheels’). What else do we imply when we say that the purchase of a motorbike represents a ‘mid-life crisis’, or that a large car is compensation for a lack of endowment? But, of course, in the fictional version of our sexual relationship with cars, it is we, the humans, who are in control; we determine what we do in cars. In Ballard’s reality it is the other way round:

What I noticed about these affairs, which she described in an unembarrassed voice, was the presence in each one of the automobile. All had taken place within a motor-car, either in the multi-storey car-park at the airport, in the lubrication bay of her local garage at night, or in the laybys near the northern circular motorway, as if the presence of the car mediated an element which alone made sense of the sexual act.

In 1973, horrified readers condemned such passages as fantastical pornography. Thirty years later, in England, a very similar scene burst onto the front pages and even received an official term: dogging. (And at the centre of that scandal was one of the biggest television stars in the country, natch.)

The real shock of Crash is not that people have sex in or near cars, but that technology has entered into even our most intimate human relations. Not man-as-technology-forming but technology-as-man-forming. We had hints of this, too, a long time ago, in Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto of 1909, which makes explicit the modernist desire to replace our ancient Gods and myths with the sleek lines and violent lessons of the automobile. It also features an orgasmic car crash: ‘When I came up—torn, filthy, and stinking—from under the capsized car, I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass through my heart!’

But Marinetti’s prose is overwrought, deliberately absurd (‘We went up to the three snorting beasts, to lay amorous hands on their torrid breasts. I stretched out on my car like a corpse on its bier, but revived at once under the steering wheel, a guillotine blade that threatened my stomach’) where Ballard is calm and collected. That medic’s eye, dispassionate, ruthless:

Braced on his left elbow, he continued to work himself against the girl’s hand, as if taking part in a dance of severely stylized postures that celebrated the design and electronics, speed and direction of an advanced kind of automobile.

Marinetti’s hot-headed poets and artists wrestled with the icon of the motorcar. Ballard’s ciphers coolly appraise it. The iciness of Ballard’s style is partly a consequence of inverting the power-balance between people and technology, which in turn deprives his characters of things like interiority and individual agency. They seem mass-produced, just like the things they make and buy. Certainly his narrators and narrators manqués are not concerned with the personalities of human beings:

Vaughan’s interest in myself was clearly minimal; what concerned him was not the behaviour of a 40-year-old producer of television commercials but the interaction between an anonymous individual and his car, the transits of his body across the polished cellulose panels and vinyl seating, his face silhouetted against the instrument dials.

It’s almost as if the stalker-sadist Vaughan looks at humans as walking-talking examples of that Wittgensteinian proposal: ‘Don’t ask for the meaning; ask for the use.’ When Ballard called Crash the first ‘pornographic novel about technology’, he referred not only to a certain kind of content but to pornography as an organizing principle, perhaps the purest example of humans ‘asking for the use’. In Crash, though, the distinction between humans and things has become too small to be meaningful. In effect, things are using things. (And a crazed stalker like Vaughan becomes the model for a new kind of narrative perspective.)

Now, I don’t think it can be seriously denied that some of the deadening narrative traits of pornography can be found here: flat-ness, repetition, circularity. ‘Blood, semen and engine coolant’ converge on several pages, and the sexual episodes repeat like trauma. But surely this flatness is deliberate; it is with the banality of our psychopathology that Ballard is concerned:

The same calm but curious gaze, as if she were still undecided how to make use of me, was fixed on my face shortly afterwards as I stopped the car on a deserted service road among the reservoirs to the west of the airport.

That seems to me a quintessential Ballardian sentence, depicting a denatured landscape in which people don’t so much communicate as exchange mass-produced gestures. (Reservoirs are to Ballard what clouds were to Wordsworth.) Of course, it was not this lack of human interiority that created the furious moral panic around this book (and later David Cronenberg’s film). That was more about the whole idea of penetrating the wound of a disabled lady. I was in college when the Daily Mail went to war with the movie, and found myself unpleasantly aligned with the censors, my own faux-feminism existing in a Venn diagram with their righteous indignation. We were both wrong: Crash is not about humiliating the disabled or debasing women, and in fact the Mail’s campaign is a chilling lesson in how a superficial manipulation of liberal identity politics can be used to silence a genuinely protesting voice, one that is trying to speak for us all. No one doubts that the abled use the disabled, or that men use women. But Crash is an existential book about how everybody uses everything. How everything uses everybody. And yet it is not a hopeless vision:

The silence continued. Here and there a driver shifted behind his steering wheel, trapped uncomfortably in the hot sunlight, and I had the sudden impression that the world had stopped. The wounds on my knees and chest were beacons tuned to a series of beckoning transmitters, carrying the signals, unknown to myself, which would unlock this immense stasis and free these drivers for the real destinations set for their vehicles, the paradises of the electric highway.

In Ballard’s work there is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge. For we cannot say we haven’t got precisely what we dreamed of, what we always wanted, so badly. The dreams have arrived, all of them: instantaneous global communication, virtual immersion, bio-technology. These were the dreams. And calm and curious, pointing out every new convergence, Ballard reminds us that dreams are often perverse.

New York, 2014

1

Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash. During our friendship he had rehearsed his death in many crashes, but this was his only true accident. Driven on a collision course towards the limousine of the film actress, his car jumped the rails of the London Airport flyover and plunged through the roof of a bus filled with airline passengers. The crushed bodies of package tourists, like a haemorrhage of the sun, still lay across the vinyl seats when I pushed my way through the police engineers an hour later. Holding the arm of her chauffeur, the film actress Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Vaughan had dreamed of dying for so many months, stood alone under the revolving ambulance lights. As I knelt over Vaughan’s body she placed a gloved hand to her throat.

Could she see, in Vaughan’s posture, the formula of the death which he had devised for her? During the last weeks of his life Vaughan thought of nothing else but her death, a coronation of wounds he had staged with the devotion of an Earl Marshal. The walls of his apartment near the film studios at Shepperton were covered with the photographs he had taken through his zoom lens each morning as she left her hotel in London, from the pedestrian bridges above the westbound motorways, and from the roof of the multi-storey car-park at the studios. The magnified details of her knees and hands, of the inner surface of her thighs and the left apex of her mouth, I uneasily prepared for Vaughan on the copying machine in my office, handing him the packages of prints as if they were the instalments of a death warrant. At his apartment I watched him matching the details of her body with the photographs of grotesque wounds in a textbook of plastic surgery.

In his vision of a car-crash with the actress, Vaughan was obsessed by many wounds and impacts—by the dying chromium and collapsing bulkheads of their two cars meeting head-on in complex collisions endlessly repeated in slow-motion films, by the identical wounds inflicted on their bodies, by the image of windshield glass frosting around her face as she broke its tinted surface like a death-born Aphrodite, by the compound fractures of their thighs impacted against their handbrake mountings, and above all by the wounds to their genitalia, her uterus pierced by the heraldic beak of the manufacturer’s medallion, his semen emptying across the luminescent dials that registered for ever the last temperature and fuel levels of the engine.

It was only at these times, as he described this last crash to me, that Vaughan was calm. He talked of these wounds and collisions with the erotic tenderness of a long-separated lover. Searching through the photographs in his apartment, he half turned towards me, so that his heavy groin quietened me with its profile of an almost erect penis. He knew that as long as he provoked me with his own sex, which he used casually as if he might discard it for ever at any moment, I would never leave

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3.2
37 avaliações / 36 Análises
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Avaliações de leitores

  • (4/5)
    Bleak and challenging to read. The mixture of violence of the collision of technology and sex was very confronting for me.
  • (3/5)
    This is a case of a derivative work being superior to the original, IMO. I came to the novel because I found the film so compelling. True, the two share a fascinating take on the relation of man and technology in their exploration of the eroticism of one of the more iconic pieces of machinery ever created: the automobile. But this isn't just doing-it-in-the-back-seat-of-the-Chevy sex, this is kinky, body-modification-by-violent-means sex.Ballard's characters are obsessed with car crashes and the way in which the human body and mind are forever altered by the experience. There is an obsession with scarring, with wounds, with broken bones and torn flesh, with body fluids and the way violent impact can force them from us. This is ground-breaking stuff, thought-provoking and troubling in ways that aren't pleasant to think about. Unfortunately, whether it's that Ballard's style isn't conducive to conveying the eroticism in any visceral way or whether the sheer length of this story works against it, the novel never really grabbed hold of my imagination.I had a sense, as I slogged through the latter half of the book, that I was reading a short story in novel's clothing. It feels padded to me, and highly repetitive. The erotic frisson of engine coolant as a kind of sexual musk lost its charm after the first dozen times it was evoked. Ballard's sexual vocabulary here is clinical in the extreme which may work in terms of distancing the reader from sex on wholly human terms, but it works too well. Held at a distance by the words he chooses, it's hard to get a feel for the implied eroticism of the subject matter. It's all too cerebral, too cold and mechanical. The machine is all, and humans might as well be made of metal, too.I give points for the chances he took, but subtract them for the unnecessarily sterile way in which he took them.
  • (3/5)
    Crashby J.G. Ballard1973/2019PGW/Rare Bird Book3.0 / 5.0Auto-Erotica. Literally. A literary classic, but disappointing, for me.This is about a group of car-crash victims who get sexual pleasure from staging and then being in car-crashes. A story of the interaction of man with machine, a man so obsessed with pleasure he doesnt see it is destroying him....This is a brilliant story. It is overtly dark and perverse, which usually intrigues me, but I just didn't like any of the characters.
  • (2/5)
    I really could not wait for this book to end. I'm not squeamish at all, I just found all the descriptions of car crashes and their 'eroticism' rather dull and repetitive, rather like a child who's learnt to say a rude word. I did not find the conjunction of sex and car crashes believable, interesting or challenging; just a tiresome for-the-sake-of-it incoherent ramble.
  • (4/5)
    I read this after hearing The Normal's Warm Leatherette and learning about its inspiration. Surprisingly not as disturbing as I had imagined it would be. The first chapter is by far the "worst." I'm wondering if I'm just becoming desensitized to the world. I appreciate and relate to the feelings of isolation and technology and how it still translates to today, maybe even more so.
  • (1/5)
    Disgusting at the beginning, boring going forward. Forget about this book as quick as you can.
  • (1/5)
    I HATE THIS SO MUCH. It's profoundly repugnant. Annoys me particularly because the bits that don't turn my stomach are well-written, even ocassionally insightful.
  • (3/5)
    Daring and transgressive, yet ultimately one of those novels that would have been more forceful had it been distilled down to the length of a short story. Crash is inventive and uncomfortable (in a good way), but the initial shock of the premise is weakened by being dragged out over a couple hundred pages. Not even self-destructive, eroticized techno-sexual depravity will stand up under endless repetition. Still an interesting read and I'll definitely be exploring Ballard's other work.
  • (4/5)
    This was a very graphic and violent dystopian novel but also very powerful. The writing is cold and detached but shows the genius of J. G. Ballard as he points out to us what technology has done to our emotions and humanity. This book is not for the faint of heart as it is a look at modern society in regards to death, dismemberment and sexual fantasy. I do recommend the book though and look forward to exploring more of Ballard's work.
  • (1/5)
    I know this avant-garde novel is supposed have opened up brave new vistas in dystopian fiction, by "boldly going where no man has gone before". The courage of J. G. Ballard has to be admired the way he links violent death with sex: his narrative structuring is exemplary. However, I simply could not get into the book even after three or four tries. The characters were extremely unlikeable: the main premise was bizarre: and the story failed to hold my interest. I did not finish it.

    So I will have to give this a miserable one-star rating. I cannot honestly recommend it to anyone. The only thing is, the reactions these type of novels create are highly subjective: so should it prove to be your cup of tea, it may even come up with five stars.
  • (4/5)
    Lots of other people who are a lot better than me have written all kinds of things about this novel. I will say this: The first hundred pages of the novel are relatively un-engaging. It's almost entirely narrative voice with almost zero dialogue interaction between characters. This was especially difficult for me because that's my favorite part of any book--watching how the characters interact with each other. So the concept is fascinating, the narrative is layered upon inspection and flat on the surface (as many have said), and the narrator's voice is brutally unadorned, mimicking pornographic photography (as many others have said, as well).
    The writing is disappointing in all of those ways, though, because all the things that are fascinating about the book are given short shrift--this includes the scene where Ballard first meets Vaughan, which was the one I most wanted to read. The novel is also not helped by the long winded and repetitious first chapter.
    So is the book fascinating, conceptually, and highly influential on two whole generations of authors who have come along since its publication? Yes. Is it a good read? Marginally.
  • (2/5)
    Reading this book wore me out. I like Ballard, I think he's a writer who really gets technology, modernity, isolation, etc., and I'm pretty non-judgmental about even sort of far-out fetishes, but what kept flashing through my brain was GRATUITOUS GRATUITOUS WHEN WILL THIS BOOK END ARRGH. And I don't even mean that it was gratuitous with the sex-and-accidents stuff (although it was)--the blunt, increasingly inelegant repetition of Ballard's arguments made a compelling idea, after a certain point, just tedious. In much the same way that there are only so many words for various parts of the human anatomy (and, dear lord, if I see the words "groin" or "pubis" again in my lifetime it will be too soon), maybe there are only a fixed number of ways of looking at a car crash.
  • (2/5)
    Too emotionally empty for my taste -- which was probably a part of Ballard's point regarding technology -- and I don't mind a disturbing read (in fact I enjoy a disturbing read) but this (and I realize I go against the grain here) had no point or purpose for me. Maybe I'm stupid and just didn't "get" it. People crash. Crash victims have sex in crumpled cars. There is something erotic about cars crashing. WhatEVER!! I so wanted to like this book. I felt icky reading it, and I'm not completely sure why. I'm certainly no prude. I absolutely loved Vollmann's "Royal Family" and it's a hell of a lot more vulgar than this. I suppose if Ballard's goal was to repulse and repel me in an unenjoyable way (I enjoy being repulsed & repelled in enjoyable ways, mind you) then he masterfully succeeded. I couldn't relate to these characters; I didn't like them; they were mostly disgusting and gross and morally repugnant (again, not that I'm Mr. Morals here, I'm certainly not) but there was nothing redeemable or hopeful about them, or in the plot, which really wasn't a plot but a series of car crashes infused with erotica by deranged if not demented minds. Usually, this kind of writing attracts me. I think this did not because of its overwhelming nihilism. I like nihilism, a la Bret Ellis or Hemingway or early Didion; I like them because they interweave their nihilism with either humor or detached outrage -- but there's neither of those qualities in "Crash". It's mind numbingly nihilistic. I suspect that Ballard may have been trying to elicit such a reaction, but at least, man, mix in some black humor along the way. If you're going to numb me with meaninglessness, at least make me smile if not chuckle a few times along the way. I can't imagine how awful the film version of this must be.
  • (5/5)
    J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash puts me in mind of the great poet of our time, R. Kelly, and his perspective-shifting masterpiece, Ignition, if Ignition dared to reach its erotic-subversive logical conclusion. For Ballard, the techno-eroticism of the automobile necessarily finds its end in an epic and annihilating collision, the most Kelly is willing to risk is a ticket and his shocks.For reference, the truncated lyrics:“Girl, please let me stick my key in your ignition, babeSo I can get this thing started and get rollin', babeSee, I'll be doin' about 80 on your freewayGirl, I won't stop until I drive you crazySo buckle up 'cause this can get bumpy, babeNow hit the lights and check out all my functions, babeGirl, back that thing up so I can wax it, babyHoney, we gon' mess around and get a ticket, babeNow hold on tight 'cause I'm about to go faster, babeGirl, you're dealin' with a pro behind this wheel, babeSo tell me have you ever driven a stick, babeYou'll be screamin' every time we shiftin' gears, babeSo brace yourself while I'm hittin' them corners, babeAnd when it's over put that tails on your license plate...”Like R. Kelly’s song, the characters in Crash are at one moment operators of the car, in the next moment one with the car itself: e.g.. “let me stick my key in your ignition babe” suggests (obviously) that R. Kelly is decidedly not the vehicle, but the mechanism by which the vehicle’s (woman’s) engines are set running. In the next stanza his car-amour acts as the driver, exploring the dashboard body of R. Kelly. Later, Kelly is again the “pro behind the wheel”-- once more at the driver’s helm--confusingly asking the car-amour if she has ever driven a stick shift, which begs lots of metaphysical questions. Kelly’s muddied metaphors aside, the familiar technology of the car coupled with the erotic encounter--the inherent danger of both--especially when combined--is just the kind of risky fantasy the modern world has made possible. But J.G. Ballard is no R. Kelly. Where R. Kelly plays exclusively with innuendo, Ballard minces no words: [ahem] “As I pressed the head of my penis against the neck of her uterus, in which I could feel a dead machine, her cap, I looked at the cabin around me. This small space was crowded with angular control surfaces and rounded sections of human bodies interacting in unfamiliar junctions...The volumes of Helen’s thighs pressing against my hips, her left fist buried in my shoulder, her mouth grasping at my own, the shape and moisture of her anus as I stroked it with my ring finger, were each overlaid by the inventories of a benevolent technology--the moulded binnacle of the instrument dials, the jutting carapace of the steering column shroud, the extravagant pistol grip of the hand-brake...The passenger compartment enclosed us like a machine generating from our sexual act an homunculus of blood, semen and engine coolant…”Ballard’s Crash explores the tipping point where the fantasy ceases to be satisfied by mere risk, and requires the crash of metal bodies to satisfy the sexual proclivities of human ones. Psychoanalysis has a name for this, of which the author was surely aware: the Death Drive.
  • (4/5)
    I was traveling to London on business. Whenever I get a chance to go abroad, I try to read something “of the region.” Or at least something that contains a metaphor for the trip. Reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson on my first trip to London and Edinburgh worked quite nicely. Digging into Gulliver’s Travels by Swift while traveling through Sweden, a fantastic land that was completely alien to me at the time, was a perfect call. I won’t discuss the mistake of trying to read The Spider’s House by Paul Bowles while visiting Morocco. Two-for-three as they say.For this trip to London, I wanted something indubitably British. The options were endless. But I handicapped myself with one stipulation: it had to be available for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. I’ve had one for a few months now and have adapted quite nicely to reading newspapers and magazines on the device. But I had yet to finish a full novel. I was dead set on doing it for this trip, if for no other reason than keeping the bags light and not wanting to pack several books. After choosing a few novels that were not available (damn you digital rights!!!), I stumbled upon Crash by J.G. Ballard. It made perfect sense – here was an author delving into the complications of humanity’s increasing reliance on technology. What better book to read on a Kindle? And the book is indubitably British in its sense of humor and sort of dry delivery.Which brings us to the book itself…Crash could’ve been one of those novels. You know the one I’m discussing. It’s a really clever idea. Very clever. So clever that agents will engage in rugby scrums to get their hands on it. More often than not, it comes from a graduate of an MFA program. Publishers will jump into a frenzy, bidding with foaming mouths during an auction. Here is the future! Here is the savior of literature! Here is… Well nothing more than a clever idea poorly executed. It is the equivalent of seeing a Richard Prince exhibit. In the end you are left to say, “Well he’s clever, but that is all I can say about him.”In many ways, Crash could’ve been that novel. The metaphor of car crashes as sexual affairs is driven (pun intended) down the reader’s throat. It’s carried to ridiculous lengths within the prose. “The aggressive stylization of this mass-produced cockpit, the exaggerated mouldings of the instrument binnacles emphasized my growing sense of a new junction between my body and automobile, closer than my feelings for Renata’s broad hips and strong legs stowed out of sight beneath her red plastic raincoat. I leaned forward, feeling the rim of the steering wheel against the scars of my chest, pressing my knees against the ignition switch and handbrake.” That is one of the tamer passages, as Ballard takes the metaphor to its fullest extent.In the hands of most writers, the novel would’ve fallen apart quickly, a clever idea collapsing into itself. But Ballard expertly weaves it into a portrayal of humanity going quite mad, car crazy if you will. The character of Vaughan can even be seen as a non-entity, a mirror of the narrator’s increasingly decaying sanity. The world was already obsessed with cars when the novel was written in 1973. Our problems with climate change and an addictive need for oil to keep the gas-guzzlers running has proven that we’ve grown more deranged in our attachment to cars and driving since then. One need look no further than the SUV craze of the 1990s and early 2000s to see how prescient Ballard truly was. Americans bought large bulked up, big block, SUVs in droves – despite the gas guzzling nature of the vehicles and our already well-attuned environmental consciousness. The sexual overtones are obvious. I’m an impotent sheep at work; give me something monstrous to drive so I feel hard. A bit over the top I know, but dig deep, and it really boils down to that. Or did you really say, “Screw the environment, my kid needs a tank to be protected from other drivers!” Either way, it makes us look like fools. And that’s the beauty of Crash. Ballard takes us into ourselves. The prose is cutting, biting. It wounds us, much like a flight through a windshield, leaving a map of scars. He picks apart our obsessions with automobiles (and the sexuality inherit with that obsession) and in a brilliant, over-the-top satire, lays out our ugliness on a morgue table.Needless to say, I had a smashing time in London.
  • (2/5)
    “After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.” Firstly I should admit that I don't actually drive a car instead preferring two wheels. Now I can imagine getting a sexual kick from having a throbbing Harley Davidson underneath me especially if I had some young leather clad vixen had her arms wrapped about my waist or perhaps heading off to secret assignation with said vixen but getting sexually aroused by cars and in particular car crashes just doesn't work for me. Cars are merely boxes on wheels and a means of getting from A to B dry. Now I do understand the facination we all probably have with accidents of whatever form and like probably everyone else have made an effort at sometime to see one or at least the aftermath of one but to have felt some sexual arousal by it, Nah! Just nosey.Now whilst I appreciate that there are all sort of fetishes out there, the idea that there is a seemingly large group of people trawling aroung the outskirts actively seeking out and getting sexually aroused by car crashes seems a bit far fetched. I can also imagine that the motorcar in the book can be seen as a metaphor for all sorts of technology, the fact that numerous people,rather than random deviants, get sexually excited by inanimate objects also leaves me somewhat non-plussed. On the whole I found the book just an excuse for the author to indulge in an excuse to write an openly pornographic novel which seems to thumb its nose to readers,critics and in particular academics alike. Why in particular acacdemics? Well, I can just imagine in years to come some long-winded, cordoroy wearing professor spouting out so much nonsense about this book ,that the car is really a phallic symbol,that the semen and vaginal deposits spread liberally about represents humanity in a battle against the rise of machines or some other such tosh.I cannot say that I enjoyed this book but nor can I say that I hated it. I intrigued me enough to want to keep turning the pages until the very end and it gets marks for originality but it is not a book that I will revisit thats for sure.
  • (3/5)
    My reaction to reading this novel in 1997. Spoilers follow.This is a perverse novel about a group of automobile accident victims who develop a sexual fetish for car wrecks and the resulting injuries. There is a lot of sex in this book, but it isn’t very arousing. If this is an attempt at pornography (I don’t think it is), it’s not very successful. Ballard’s prose is too clinical (I believe he contemplated a medical career once), to be arousing. This prose tone and quality mutes his attempt at poetic explanations for his narrator and Vaughn's (that "nightmare angel of the highways”) thuggy, obsessed psychological state. While l I realize that people can and do develop all sorts of bizarre sexual fetishes, Ballard never really convinced me of the reality, plausibility, or emotion behind this one. While this is not an sf novel per se, it has a science fiction sensibility about it in its exploration of the erotic attraction and mediation involved in a technology – here autos and automobile transportation (even for the failures of the latter in wrecks). Ballard uses the novel to plot an extended series of sexual metaphors involving autos. In that sense, I can see his influence on the cyberpunks and their use of technological metaphors (though William Gibson is more skilled in this area). His fascination with celebrities and media – here symbolized by Vaughn’s obsession with “the film actress Elizabeth Taylor” – also prefigures cyberpunk themes. Sf critics antagonistic to the New Wave and its major figure Ballard accused him of creating disaster stories in which not only does the hero not try to prevent the disaster, is passive in the face of it, but actually seem to desire it. This is certainly true here. The narrator – named James Ballard – not only senses a coming “autogeddon” but looks forward to his death in it and plots the erotic configurations of his future death.
  • (1/5)
    terrible (0), it truly was terrible but I will give it 1 star as I think the author is a good writer, I wish this hadn’t been the first book I read by him. REVIEW: To say I don't get it, really sums up my experience reading this...... Here is an example I don't get. "By terrifying paradox, a sexual act between us would be a way of taking her revenge", this is said about the wife of the man that he killed in an auto accident. And what is the sci fi part of this book. It is the excessive references to cars, roads, airplanes...to technology. It's excessive and oppressive. It makes it feel like an alien force. Here's another quote, "the day I left Ashford I had the extraordinary feeling that all these cars were gathering for some special reason I didn't understand." This is a story of a dystopian world where man no longer has feelings or connections to people and is oppressed by technology. The characters in this book are not likable. They are consumed by sex. The scape of roads and freeways, airports and car parks and the various parts of the inside and outside of cars is what turns them on. The author called this a work of pornography and he was not kidding. The pages are filled with sexual references to parts of cars, sex parts such as penises and breasts, vaginas, urethras and body secretions such as sperm, mucus, blood, vomit. You really feel quite awful after reading this book. This is not gratuitous sex, this is icky sex. I could recommend this book to no one. QUOTES:“The crash was the only real experience I’d been through” "For a half an hour I sat by the window in her office, looking down at the hundreds of cars in the parking lot. Their roofs formed a lake of metal.""Overhead, across the metallized air, a jet-liner screamed."“The marriage of sex and technology reached its climax as the traffic divided at the airport overpass and we began to move forwards in the northbound lane.” WORDS:Flyovers, British word for American overpass.
  • (1/5)
    I read the first 4 chapters before I gave up. The writing is good but I can't stomach the content, which made me feel physically ill. Perhaps this novel deserves to be on the Guardian's 1000 novels everyone should read list, but I will never know as I will never pick this up again.
  • (2/5)

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    Hey, everybody, look! Sex! And violence! And more sex! And more violence! And loving detail to all of this! And cars! Sex and violence and cars! Look, semen and blood! Hey, everybody, look at me! Machines are bad, guys, they really are!

    How boring. I really should stop.

    1 pessoa achou isso útil

  • (4/5)

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    Harsh and disturbing. This was one uncomfortable read. Beautiful prose about a dark subject, I found reading this an unnerving experience.

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  • (5/5)
    Ballard is one of the most relevant writers I've come across for this day and age. I've been a moderate fan of the movie version of this book for a while, but the film does no justice to the book at all.

    The basic premise of this, and much of Ballard's work, deals with the complete de-humanization and reductionism of the modern era. His characters are sexual, psychological mechanisms operating in technological corridors. The car-sex theme of the book is blatantly metaphorical but scary in its pure crticism of our reductionist world.
  • (4/5)
    This one left me with lots of notes and not much of an idea how to begin putting those thoughts together into something coherent, so I won't promise any sort of organized comments.I'm going to guess that most readers pick this one up with some knowledge of the content, which involves the intersection (pun oh so painfully intended) of automobiles, traffic accidents, and eroticism. Our narrator (coincidentally named James Ballard) gets into a car accident with another vehicle containing a couple; the man dies, the woman lives. From there, Ballard becomes entangled with Vaughan, a morbid aficionado of collisions. The book is the direct opposite of the saying "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Nothing is ever just a cigar here. Everything is muddled together: reality and fantasy, sex and violence, metal and bodily fluids, organic descriptors for inorganic objects and vice versa. The automobile accident is seen as a way to literally jolt people out of their everyday complacency and awaken them to the real possibilities of the world. Injury and pain are the means to a form of enlightenment (but not in any form Buddha would recognize). Cars are described as arbors or bowers, or "benevolent technology." The modern relationship with the vehicle is taken to its most extreme position, its nature as both a public and a private place explored from every angle.The writing is the melding of style and substance. Words, phrases, ideas are repeated, echoed and mimicked even as the characters find patterns in accident scenes and try to recreate them with their own movements and postures. Reading the book is itself like witnessing a car accident - you want to look away, but somehow you just can't.Recommended for: people who like to dissect meanings, non-germophobes (there are a lot of bodily fluids), Sigmund Freud, David Cronenberg fans.Quote: "I had thought of his last moments alive, frantic milliseconds of pain and violence in which he had been catapulted from a pleasant domestic interlude into a concertina of metallized death."
  • (4/5)
    Beautiful, tragic, terrifying, gruesome, and intensely sexual. I'm not so certain how I feel about the novel so soon after finishing it, but there is some unidentifiable feeling it has elicited. The strange duality between technology and sex is exquisitely highlighted. Everything is technical, and by the end you feel no more attached to any one character than you did at the beginning - you feel helpless against wave after visceral wave of sexual pleasure and discharge. It overtakes you. It consumes you.Ballard, you fool.
  • (3/5)
    Conceptually interesting, but it seems to me Ballard is more comfortable with short stories. I kept wanting him to pull out a thesaurus every now and then, and a few of the scenes appeared to be retreads of earlier encounters in the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the premise and the ideas behind the novel; the marriage of eroticism and machinery has been a topic that has interested me for a while (similar ideas are found in Tetsuo: Iron Man and perhaps to a lesser extent Ghost in the Shell and cyberpunk in general, along with a critical review in Simulacra and Simulation), and Ballard really ran with it.
  • (2/5)
    This is a difficult book. It's both unrelenting and monotonous in its deliberately provocative, yet banal style. I don't normally review the books I read but felt compelled to add my comments to the discussion that has gone before re: Crash, particularly regarding it being the 'dullest "shocking" novel ever'. I think there is a lot of truth in that quote. Ballard has clearly worked out a grand schema for both the style and content of Crash, but I can't help but feel the achievement is undermined by the ultimate fungibility of each of the characters and the lack of any attempt to explain their nihilism. Also, bizarrely - for a short work - the novel seems too long to sustain the conveyor belt repetition of 'sex acts', metaphor and fetishes. I think Ballard's idea might have been better served by a novella, dropping some of the more mind-numbing passages. You'll need some resolve to finish this and to be frank I'm not sure its worth the bother, despite the plaudits from some.
  • (4/5)
    The story is told in first person by James Ballard himself. Ballard has an accident where he is injured. The other driver is killed and his fellow passenger is hurt. After returning from the hospital Ballard makes automobile erotic connotations. He meets Vaughan who introduces him to other automobile accident victims who are experiencing similar fantasies. What follows are a lot of crashes and a lot of sex. Vaughan’s fantasies in time mature and he wants to crash his car into Elizabeth Taylor’s car and die in the process which will mark his mating with the actress. He dies in the process but palts the seed of his psychopathic tendencies in his followers.Full marks for the style but no marks for the story. When it came out in 1973, it must have shocked a lot of people for its graphic descriptions of the accidents and the sex acts. “Technology will mark our lives” is the message.
  • (1/5)
    The trouble with pornographic writing is that too much creativity has you nominated for the Bad Sex award for tortured metaphors - but playing it straight means using words like "pubis" forty times in twenty pages, as Ballard seems to here. Surely the dullest 'shocking' novel ever; all the characters do is drive around, crash and have sex (often mixing the latter option with the two previous ones). Had I seen the author's explanation of his motives for writing Crash - "I wanted to rub humanity's face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror" - I would have avoided this nonsense. Others should learn from my mistake.
  • (2/5)
    I wasn't that keen on this one. Maybe I completely missed the point but I don't think this really deserves the acclaim it has. Most of the characters were poorly drawn. I didn't really relate to the main characters and also variations on the word "stylised" were overused. Don't get it (in that I don't get it and also advise others not to).
  • (1/5)
    This was a terrible, terrible read. I've got a pretty strong stomach, and I went into this expecting to like it after hearing it was a cult classic.The problem for me was not so much the gore, though there is a lot of graphic descriptions of injuries. The problem is the bland, repetitive writing. The entire first chapter is just paragraph after paragraph of descriptions of accidents. The first three chapters are all sort of like this, with minimal plot slipped in. Well, actually, the entire book is like this, I think I probably just got used to it after awhile. The characters simply move from place to place while the main character ponders what happens to both cars and people in car crashes.That was my biggest problem with Crash. It's also depraved, which I could deal with if it wasn't so boring to read. Lots and lots and lots of sex happens, the main character and his wife often have affairs that they describe to one another in order to stimulate their sexual appetites for one another. Vaughn, the one who starts the car crash obsessions, frequently masturbates to car accidents. The characters use each other's wounds and scars from their accidents as sexual stimulants. The characters also frequently drive around highways causing near-accidents, but mostly just drive infinitely around looking for recent accident sites.So, yes. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.