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The Atrocity Exhibition ~ J. G. Ballard

J. G. Ballard continues to impress and inspire me the more I read of his works. He truly is, as one of his critics commented, "a national treasure" and a brilliant mind. While away on holiday in Canada, I had some 18 hours of flight time to fill with the vivid imagery so characteristic of Ballard novels and had in preparation procured from Amazon (where else) four of his earlier works and resolved to read them all by the time the 767 touched down at Heathrow on the return leg. As it turns out, I only managed to get through two of those books and start another before I needed a Ballard break. It's not that I was getting bored; it's more that upon reflection I discovered one should not as hastily move on from the completion of a Ballard novel to the next. One needs time to reflect, time to internalise and time to dissect and understand in entirety what was just read. I found in The Atrocity Exhibition a special attraction, firstly because of its intriguing name and then later because of it's content. Another of the other four novels I bought was 'Crash', perhaps one of Ballard's most famous works. Later, a movie of the same name would be written and directed by David Cronenberg (Crash, 1996). The movie left much to be desired, but The Atrocity Exhibition is credited as being Ballard’s main inspiration for Crash and the influence is clearly evident. The book is however not so much a novel as a collection of notes, thoughts and ideas. It reads like a sketch book retrieved from the criminally insane ward at a mental asylum, at times making profound points and at other times giving the reader no more than a conundrum of confusion to deal with. It is undoubtedly a literary experience which will stain the gray matter for a long time to come, though not recommended for light Sunday morning reading.

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