Read The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard Online


The irrational, all-pervading violence of the modern world is the subject of this novel. The central character's dreams are haunted by images of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, dead astronauts and motorcar crash victims....

Title : The Atrocity Exhibition
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ISBN : 9780007116867
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Atrocity Exhibition Reviews

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-02-08 01:53

    The Atrocity Exhibition is something like a shock therapy – it is painstakingly unpleasant but it makes one react.“Now that sex is becoming more and more a conceptual act, an intellectualization divorced from affect and physiology alike, one has to bear in mind the positive merits of the sexual perversions.”The Atrocity Exhibition is a series of dreamscapes or, to be more precise, madscapes born in the sick mind of the protagonist – the psychiatrist with the split and fragmented identity. His visions are fatalistic and gloomily surreal and they are modeled on the paintings by Max Ernst and other surrealists and on Locus Solus, the surrealistic novel by Raymond Roussel.“Entering the exhibition, Travis sees the atrocities of Vietnam and the Congo mimetized in the ‘alternate’ death of Elizabeth Taylor; he tends the dying film star, eroticizing her punctured bronchus in the over-ventilated verandas of the London Hilton; he dreams of Max Ernst, superior of the birds; ‘Europe after the Rain’; the human race – Caliban asleep across a mirror smeared with vomit.”Sex, violence, death and mass culture become protagonist’s obsessions. He dreams of the World War III and envisions an atomic bomb explosion as the ultimate ejaculation.“Has a festival of atrocity films ever been held? Every year at the Oscars ceremony, some might say.”Violence, sex and kitsch are the stuff our madness is made of.

  • Cecily
    2019-01-23 23:35

    Impossible to rate or even classify this weird and disturbing book from the late '60s (it's not a novel, it's not a collection of mini-novels, it's not even a psychological treatise, though it has aspects of all three). It explores the links between death/danger and sexuality (his own wife had died suddenly a few years earlier). Parts of it will be thought obscene by many. It reflects Ballard's interests in psychoanalysis and surrealism: the very structure of the book is surreal. All of this makes more sense after reading his far more accessible autobiography, "Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton" is a non-linear narrative, divided into "chapters", of which each paragraph is a self-contained nugget, with its own title. In an introduction written more than 30 years after first publication, Ballard suggests readers scan a chapter for headings that catch their eye, and if they find them interesting, to move on to nearby ones, so maybe one approach is to list a selection of paragraph titles, out of sequence?departurejourneys to an interiorsome bloody accidentthe realization of dreamscontours of desirean existential yesthe conceptual deathquestions, always questionshung among the corridors of sleepsoft geometrythe impossible roomthe geometry of her facetransliterated pudendaimaginary perversionsinterlocked bodiesfractured smilethe lost symmetry of the blastosphereMy edition includes Ballard's extensive notes, without which much of it would be impenetrable (and not just the pop culture references) - though perhaps it would be less disturbing without them.There's little point trying to describe the "story" or characters, but it does involve one who monitors how subjects react to scenes of car crashes as a proxy for (well, in addition to) his own life and experiences: "the eucharist of the simulated auto-disaster". Many other characters explore predilections on the boundaries.There are many mentions of celebrities and events that were significant at the time (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, assassination of JFK, the space race), surrealist and pop-art artists (especially Dali), Freud, and overall it shows that although Ballard decided not to pursue a career as a psychiatrist, he was still very interested in the field. Some elements are weirdly prescient, whether in a societal sense (the "banalization of celebrity... an instant, ready-to-mix fame as nutritious as packet soup", and that the Vietnam war becoming a rich vein for cinema), or in his own life and works: this was written in '67, published in '69, and in '70, Ballard did actually put on an exhibition of crashed cars in London, and in '73, he published "Crash", which is a more conventional novel, exploring the same themes. The real exhibition provoked strong, violent and sometimes strange reactions in ways that the same vehicles on the street outside would not. Most bizarrely, a model hired to interview visitors whilst she was naked, said, after seeing the exhibits, that she would only do it topless. Much of this is challenging and controversial. For example, saying in the notes that "Pornography is a powerful catalyst for social change, and its periods of greatest availability have frequently coincided with times of greatest economic and scientific advance", but fearing a new puritanism in the 1990s. Personally, I think it's more complicated: our society is simultaneously very sexualised (e.g. sexy underwear for pre-schoolers) and also paranoid about child abuse to the point that the damaging effects of that exaggerated fear may outweigh the risks. In the end, Ballard sometimes it goes too far for me and I actually stopped reading just over half way through. Sexual tastes that I don't share are one thing, but rape is referred to several times, often with an apologist slant, "Her strong stride... carried within its rhythm a calculated invitation to her own sexuality" and although I know there are valid debates about the nature of paedophilia and whether there are grey areas, it's not something I choose to explore in any detail.

  • Rhys
    2019-01-29 00:47

    I have mixed feelings about this book, as I do about all of Ballard's fictions. Ballard is brilliant, no doubt about that: he possesses one of the clearest prose styles of any writer, a style not just clear but unexpectedly ecstatic in a glacial sort of way. Some of his short stories are among the finest ever written. His collection *Vermilion Sands* in particular is absolutely one of the highest points of the form. As for his novels, they can be astoundingly original but also too obsessive.*The Atrocity Exhibition* is an experimental novel, but it reads more like a collection of very strange and bewildering (though certainly powerful and affecting) linked stories -- except that the stories aren't really linked in a normal sense: they are more like echoes, amplified feedback, psychotic recursions of each other. This book certainly improves near the end. The last quarter is the best: the satire becomes more easy to comprehend, despite its excessive savagery.The main problem I have with *The Atrocity Exhibition* is that I simply don't agree with many of Ballard's beliefs that inform the book. Or rather he makes some truly excellent and pertinent points but often overstates them. I just don't accept the 'death of affect' for instance, nor that science has become the ultimate pornography, nor that pornography is necessarily a powerful catalyst for social change, etc. And Ballard's obsessions can become too intrusive in a way that isn't good. Ballard claims to be an early warning system for the breakdown of 'normality' but he often acts more like its salesman.Having said that, he's a genius, one of the best living writers in the world, and I'm delighted that I've finally read his 'difficult' cult book, the one that inspired so many of his best later works including the novel *Crash!*

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-01-21 07:43

    The Atrocity Exhibition is a really a long poem, like The Waste Land or Four Quartets. This is why it's very easy to reconfigure the text as poetry.The lost gills of the dying film actressThe pilot watches him from the roof of a lion houseThe familiar geometry of the transfigured pudendaOn the way to a terminal zoneA fading harmonic fractured smile spread across the windscreenThe wig amongst the beer bottlesAnd you, coma : marilyn MonroeYou: coma : Marilyn MonroeO technique of decalcomania, O subvocal rosary, The persistence of the beach, the assumption of the sand-duneArabesques, planes of yantra"Do you lip-read?" she asked, in the yes or no of the borderzone"The act of intercourse is always a model for something else –Don't you think?""I am the Five Hundred Foot Christ of Salvador Dali"In the darkness the halffilled reservoirs reflect the starlight.In the night air, concrete towers, blockhouses, half buried in rubble of disasters, giant conduits, filled with tyresHelicopters like air spiders

  • Matt
    2019-01-24 03:34

    Revisited this right before Christmas...Check out this back cover blurb:When the ATROCITY EXHIBITION was originally printed (1970), Nelson Doubleday saw a copy and was so horrified he ordered the entire press run shredded.What Nelson Doubleday allegedly saw that made him figuratively soil himself in righteous indignation was one of the stories near the end of this book entitled 'Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan.' Legend has it that a wag distributed copies of this story (minus title and headings) at the 1980 Republican National Convention and it was roundly praised by attendees as a thorough psychological analysis of Reagan's public appeal. Heh heh.This is easily one of Ballard's most experimental works. Arguments can be made as to whether this is a collection of loosely connected short stories or an actual novel. A sloppy summary of this book would be that the main character, Traven, is sliding towards a mental breakdown and is on a quest in the interim to recreate the deaths of iconic media celebrities such as JFK in a way that "makes sense." References to Ballard's love for the surrealists are also hidden throughout this work, particularly Ernst and Dali. Traven is fairly typical of most of Ballard's characters in that he is basically an empty jacket walking around. I'm not sure if this is a deficiency on Ballard's part as a writer or if this was his way of allowing the reader to more easily step into the role of the main character. As his mental deterioration continues his name also changes within each section (Travis, Tallis, Talbot, etc.). His cold, clinical prose style shines brilliantly throughout this book. To wit:The Geometry of Her Face. In the perspectives of the plaza, the junctions of the underpass and the embankment, Talbot at last recognized a modulus that could be multiplied into the landscape of his consciousness. The descending triangle of the plaza was repeated in the facial geometry of the young woman. The diagram of her bones formed a key to his own postures and musculature, and to the scenario that had preoccupied him at the Institute. He began to prepare for departure. The pilot and the young woman now deferred to him. The fans of the helicopter turned in the dark air, casting elongated ciphers on the dying concrete.If it is still in print, the Re/Search Publications edition of this book is the one to get. It contains sidebar commentary written by Ballard twenty years later along with the addition of his celebrity cosmetic surgery stories.

  • Nate D
    2019-01-26 07:42

    Not exactly a novel, Ballard may have written more involving narratives than this 1970 present-dystopia of modernity in meltdown, but it's unlikely that he has ever surpassed its severe and unsettling perfection of form and function, diamond-hard, brilliant, and single-mindedly focused. While each unit could function as a story (and they were originally published as such in the late 60s) there's also a total cohesion here that makes it more than a collection, into some kind of shambling and unique hybrid form.In content, The Atrocity Exhibition is a series of iterative interlocked reconfigurations of certain inescapable elements of the modern experience. Sex and death; celebrity, thermonuclear war, and auto-accidents; architecture, advertising, mass media, traumas physical and psychological. Depersonalized, fragmented and utterly haunting. I've heard it said somewhere on GR that Ballard was a great writer without being a good writer, which may have been true in places, but not here -- the writing is perfectly true to its subject, immaculately shaped into a precision instrument of dissection.Scientific reports on the psychosexual resonance of then-Governor Reagan's media presence, superpositions of dead celebrities over motorways and vacant airstrips, war footage collaged in abandoned theaters, conceptually enacted murders seeking closure to various national-scale ruptures. And not to mention that the personal can not help but invade these large-scale concerns: it was also Ballard's attempt to work through the untimely death of his first wife.I've got this in the amazing 1990 RE/Search edition, an unsettling large-format juxtaposition of a newly ballard-annotated text against deftly detourned medical illustration and photographs of modern architecture. Likely the perfect form of an edifice of deconstructed experience of the 20th century.

  • Meredith
    2019-01-30 03:37

    Reading this was like being trapped in a doctor's waiting room and repeatedly bashed in the back of the head with a cast iron frying pan. Not plot driven, not character driven, just a series of graphic montages that just get weirder as the book goes on. At no time during this read could I have explained what was going on, and I was bored silly throughout, with a lot of WTF-did-I-just-read moments. I think the author might have been intended the book to be funny. Perhaps you are not supposed to think about plot, but just let the nasty imagery float across your brain. Given that the author was a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, and was writing this book at the end of the sixties after its decade of tragic celebrity deaths, political assassinations, collapsing Apollo program, unsavoury sexual revolution and the Vietnam War on the TV every day...then perhaps the cramped, dark nature of this horribly dated book is understandable, if not palatable.

  • Michael William West
    2019-02-20 02:26

    It's enjoyable to see how much the Atrocity Exhibition confuses people, it's a mission accomplished, really, I can't think anything BUT that if you are somehow not confused, then you are missing the point entirely or are selfconsciously trying to understand anything and everything in the world in some vein attempt at pan-sophism. I don't know, perhaps it would help to have had a nervous breakdown to pick apart the flurry of fragments. Or more than one: one to understand, two for context, a third to become Ballardian about it. It's quite a funny book, of course, unless taken literally (in which case I can't think what kind of quandaries your life must involve on a day-to-day basis). Some of it is clearly wake-up-in-the-middle of the night silliness ('Transliterated Pudenda!', some of it exercising the bizarre tendencies that draw many, many people to microblogging (I quote Chris Morris here: 'I don't have a pathological personality disorder so...why would I, why would I get involved with Twitter?'). A route to madness, JG Ballard is a kind of stalker, a kind of lyre-at-the window character in psychosis, probably visiting enough, or imagining enough to get it all written down without , evidently, being permanently lost to it. It is preeminently a sexual book, writing about sex in a certain context that leads you away from what is normal to what is fascinating. Only like how it is fascinating to be an officer in the SS or a repo man or some other bizarre means to life sustenance from the perspective of someone who works at HBOS. It's a messy gathering, but it would be impossible to illustrate this subversive paranoid range of human experience otherwise. I would give it 5, but firstly I think he better illustrates the precise nature of what he wants to say in Crash, and also I made the error of buying this ridiculous Flamingo edition; apparently there are those at Harper who consider DVDs to be a kind of vicious rival to paperback fiction. Naturally publishing is the most remote and disfigured collective of human thought in history, but this is like starting a war against another species. Well, I suppose we, as humans, have already done as much. Poor animals. Doesn't stop it being totally, utterly insane though.

  • Fede
    2019-02-16 00:29

    The 60s according to Ballard: a world of mayhem and violence in all their possible shapes and manifestations, from deranged science to the pornographic use of catastrophes by papers and TV, in a surreal atmosphere of stillness and extreme acceleration at a time. This is not a novel. It's more like a scrapbook made of weekly magazines and anatomy manuals pictures, mathematic equations and visual art cryptic references. Its chapters are composed of short paragraphs with unrelated titles that can be read at random (like Burroughs' cut-ups); no plot nor chronological order, it is up to the reader to read it normally or flip through the pages. This book is far from being a wanton, meaningless collection of snapshots, though. "The Atrocity Exhibition" is a profound book in which a man's fragmented self explores the post-modern era of Hollywood stars and Congo massacres, WW3 (!) bomber pilots and scientific pornography. This man's several identities set off in search of a meaning in the chaotic show of madness and violence displayed all around at any given moment. We vaguely know he is a doctor; his psyche, haunted by the daily atrocity exhibition of our times and trying to make sense of it all, turns him into a crashed pilot, a psychopath, a sex maniac, an insane scientist moving through post-atomic landscapes scattered with wrecks, deserted shooting ranges, ambiguous medical labs, suburban crash-test areas. And the obsessive hovering images of celebrities: Marilyn (disfigured by radioactivity bruises), Albert Camus, Lee Oswald, Bardot, Jacqueline Kennedy are all actors in the same atrocity newsreel. They are all part of the same exhibition. Ballard's world is a geography of rusted crashed cars, half-burned helicopters, beaches lost in time and space like a no-man's land of hominous silence and stillness. Surrealist painting provides the writer with a huge amount of visual inspiration: Dalí, Dominguez, Tanguy, Erst, Matta are explicitly referred to throughout the book. A very graphic but also very cryptic book, actually: we are often required to stop reading and check out some of the numberless references to art, scientific disciplines or current affairs (Ballard started to write it in the late Sixties); but it definitely is worth the effort. "The Atrocity Exhibition" is an enigma to be deciphered. A medieval mystery of the atomic era. This unclassifiable anti-novel is also the fulfilment of Ballard's literary motifs.The connection between traumatic experience and eroticism, the inhuman attitude of modern science, the perverse fascination of violent death (war newsreels are compared to porn movies by Ballard's psychiatrists): all these themes will be further analysed in a long series of novels to come, from "Crash" to "Rushing to Paradise". In fact those readers who are still utterly unaquainted with Ballard should start from this absolute masterpiece, without being afraid of its reputation. It is not incomprehensible nor meaningless. Just let yourself go and delve into it.

  • Murray Ewing
    2019-02-09 02:32

    As a reader of Ballard, I’ve always preferred his early novels (The Drowned World, The Crystal World) and short stories (those collected in The Disaster Area, The Four-Dimensional Nightmare, and The Overload Man). Read Ballard for any length of time and you know he returns to the same obsessive images and landscapes again and again, often to powerful effect. Well, The Atrocity Exhibition is obsessive Ballard taken to the max. It’s the full Ballardian commedia dell’arte, replaying all the variations with his recurring cast of mentally exhausted doctors and passive, white-dressed Giaconda-wives and girlfriends. Through fragmented narratives, via collections of widely disparate images, Ballard attempted to capture the ‘peculiar psychological climate that existed in the middle sixties’ — and, of course, his own peculiar psychological climate, too, dealing as he was with the very recent and sudden death of his young wife. The landscapes of the Atrocity Exhibition stories are haunted by blown-up, Madonna-like images of women which sometimes literally fill the sky, but which fail to enable his male protagonists to relate to the real women they have beside them. But this is a book all about fragmentation, dissociation, the post-traumatic need to somehow create a unity out of a shattered whole, to replay past disasters (the death of Marilyn Monroe, the assassination of Kennedy), but in a way that makes sense. It’s a book about what Ballard called ‘the death of affect’ — dehumanisation, trauma, dislocation.It’s not an easy read. It’s not always a rewarding read. The initial shock of the form of these ‘condensed novels’ — fragmented narratives presented as paragraph-long chapters with snappy Ballardian titles — is vitalising, but after a while the repetition starts to feel a little stale. What works, for me, in his short stories and novels, didn’t always here. Perhaps I shouldn’t have read them one after the other as I did; perhaps it was more important for Ballard to write these than for me to read them — certainly it revitalised his writing in the following decade. Interesting, then, and certainly ‘important’, this is essence of extreme, obsessive Ballard (which is what we want him to be, isn’t it?). I can’t help feeling, though, that it was very firmly answered by his last book, Miracles of Life, which is an affirmation of all the humanising elements in his life (most notably his children), as much as The Atrocity Exhibition is about the dehumanising elements.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-12 23:32

    By and large, I think J.G. Ballard is awesome, with everything of his I'd read to date being a real treat. Sadly, such things can never last...Mostly flying at least 100 feet above my head at all times, this book mostly made me feel like a complete dumbass. I understood the meaning of individual words, sentences, and even the occasional paragraph, but as a whole? I know it's got something to do with sex and car crashes, but after that, I'm out. Actually, that's not quite true. There's also something to do with space and time, the Kennedy assassination and the cult of celebrity, but quite what that is, erm...I've since discovered, thanks to the intervention of a sympathetic friend (and the author's note, at the very end of the book - helpful!) that this wasn't intended to be read in a linear fashion but dipped into randomly, as well as having accompanying art work. Clearly, buying this for my Kindle was something of a mistake and the fact that I did read it linearly, with no accompanying imagery (which may have shed some light on certain passages) meant it was a very fractured reading experience, with the occasional flashes of brilliance only making the rest seem even more foggily hallucinatory.If it hadn't been for the notes at the end of each chapter I'd have been lost entirely, and I clung to these like a life-boat.I can't believe I'm giving a Ballard book such a shitty rating and it's tempting to pretend that I'm smarter than I am, but while the notes were a constant source of interesting thoughts and observances, and while the seeds of some of Ballard's later work were clearly planted here, I can't honestly say I understood, or enjoyed it.**Also posted at Randomly Reading and Ranting**

  • Adam
    2019-02-21 06:34

    At first I thought this is going to be good. But the authors self-proclaimed "free association" method of writing quickly becomes tedious. In the version I read, each chapter was followed up with explanations. I found the explanations and their tangential ramblings to be much more interesting than the story itself. I could sum up the book in a few sentences 1) Car crashes are like sex and sex is like car crashes. 2) Ralph Nader, JFK, Marylin Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor.

  • Michael Battaglia
    2019-02-21 04:28

    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 architecture and how it mirrors the collapse of society" then not only have you come to the right place, but there is really nowhere else to go. Or for all those people who believe the world needs at least two books focusing on sexual arousal via the use of car accidents, you are going to be very glad this book exists. But for those of us who don't fall into those two camps, there are other reasons to enjoy this that don't involve admiring the firm chassis of that sexy import with its patent leather seats.This book's had several different forms over the years, first starting off as a variety of short pieces published roughly all over the place that were eventually condensed and collected under this umbrella, which gave them some thematic scope and the chance to inform each other. Of course, with a title like "The Atrocity Exhibition" (a title so good that Ian Curtis apparently didn't even bother reading the book before stealing it for one of his own songs) and story titles that involve invoking the name of a famous celebrity or politician in a sexual context, its no surprise that American publishers did what American publishers normally do when confronted with something remotely controversial that they aren't able to easily make money from said controversy . . . they freaked out. The book was retitled "Love and Napalm: Export USA", which Ballard wasn't a huge fan of and frankly doesn't work as well. The current editions are all large size paperbacks and are liberally sprinkled with annotations from the author himself, as well as a variety of photographs and illustrations, most of which can be imagined as if "Grey's Anatomy" the TV show treated sex like they were "Gray's Anatomy" the medical textbook. Oddly, they add some atmosphere and texture to the stories, as long as you don't mind clinical cross sections of genitalia and other things that should be sexy reduced to a diagram that is the very opposite of sexy. But welcome to the world of JG Ballard.As for the "stories" themselves . . . any hope you might have that you're in for anything resembling a linear reading experience will probably dissipate by the second or third story when you realize that the main characters appear to be trapped in some kind of weird psychosexual version of "Krazy Kat", where a man with a similar name goes quietly (or not) crazy, being affected by, among other things, the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe, the impact of the media and news on society, or what appears to be his wife, who dies repeatedly and then gets better in the same way my video game character does when I hit the reset button. Its fascinating in its way, presenting a series of fragmentary scenarios that go out of their way to read like essays on sex from people who learned how to write about sex by reading a book about how to write a book on sex. Without any narrative progression to speak of, you're basically forced to go along with the flow and immerse yourself in Ballard's ideas about the media and society and apparently the immense psychic bomb that was the death of JFK.As a study in society driving someone crazy, it's great. As a conventional story with a beginning, middle and end, not so much and you have to let go of any ideas along those lines when opening this work. As frustrating as the structure can be at times, there's a weird fascination with how committed to this Ballard is and how he's able to communicate these decently strange ideas in an equally odd format and yet the combination of the two makes it not seem that strange at all. What helps, interestingly enough, are the annotations and while I'm normally not a huge fan of the author hanging out to hold my hand as he explains the premise of his own novel, his notes on his own stories are extremely enlightening and often act as mini-essays in themselves, expanding on his ideas involving how the media shapes the perceptions of people, especially in terms of sexual desires, often far more coherently than the stories themselves do. Some of it comes across as scarily prescient (especially in terms of shaping our reactions to tragic events, in particular those that are blocked from depicting the true look of large body counts) and some of it seems rather dated (while a lot of the stories seem to be an attempt to come to terms with the Kennedy assassination, its ultimate impact seems to be diminished with each further generation that wasn't witness to the event . . . fortunately we've gone and replaced it with other events), but rarely is it a case of Ballard simply tooting his own horn and it can be argued that they're essential to understanding the work fully.Meanwhile, those who stick it out will be rewarded with what amounts to a dry run for "Crash" and although it's not the focus of this book, it actually comes across as the most understandable aspect of it (you can even suggest that "Crash" had even more impact by taking some of the strange ideas in this book and molding them into something resembling an actual story . . . or you could interpret it as the sell out cousin to this book's no holds barred uncompromising experimentation), though folded into all the other weirdness it doesn't stand out as much as it does when you're merely focusing on sexy car crashes. This edition also adds four extra short stories, three of which are basically "stories" involving lovingly detailed but clinical descriptions of surgeries done on famous people . . . I see the point of the style and I see where he's going with it but I always get the impression that I should be more shocked by it than I am. But maybe its impact is dulled because I'm in the healthcare profession and read my own surgical reports for fun. The last story is probably the most savage, taking the idea of Ronald Reagan as President (he's a pretty common target throughout the book, despite it having been written in the last sixties) for terms past his two to a rather horrifying extreme that in some parts doesn't seem entirely removed from the reality we got (the story's satirical lionizing of him is amusing in light of how some political circles almost canonize him these days).But for all that, is it worth reading? The easy answer is "No, if you don't want to be challenged" but the truth is there's nothing else Ballard has written that was even remotely like this, vicious and despairing, gleeful and horrified, detached and drowning in blood, perverse and mourning . . . its a lot to decipher in its density and there are plenty of ideas here that will keep you pondering long after you've closed the book on its lovingly rendered cross sections of breasts but on a real level this is undiluted Ballard, for better or for worse, and even if the message isn't always palatable or even communicated in an easy to understand way. It's one man's lament on what he perceives is the collapse of society and his attempts to comprehend it and in doing so, make us comprehend the full import. The fact that we didn't listen and indeed seem to have doubled down on everything the book was warning about doesn't make the attempt any less fearless, or his message that much less urgent.

  • Misha
    2019-02-17 06:24

    Only a few pages in. Flashes of brilliance. He was a smart guy, this Ballard.This is proving a challenging and thought-provoking read.A couple of sentences I love:- "They hung on the enamelled walls like the codes of insoluble dreams, the keys to a nightmare in which she had begun to play a more willing and calculated role."- "For some reason the planes of his face failed to intersect, as if their true resolution took place in some as yet invisible dimension, or required elements other than those provided by his own character and musculature."References to Hiroshima and Nagasaki are calling up memories of when I interviewed the only person to have witnessed the explosion of three atomic bombs: the Trinity test, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you bumped into him on the streets of Moscow, Idaho, you'd find him a humble and unassuming elderly man, the kind of retired academic that litter small college towns. You might never know that as a student of Luis Alvarez he helped design the ultra-fast detonator used in the Nagasaki bomb. As a young reporter, I was a little intimidated to interview this kind of witness to real history, someone who likely had been interviewed by reporters better than me and been asked every question under the sun. So I started by asking him what he wanted to talk about that no one had ever asked him. It was a rather lazy question, and one I haven't used again, but in that moment he lit up. What he wanted to talk about was how he'd been looking for God in science -- looking in nature, evolution, biology, physics. As we progressed into the interview and talked about his work on the Manhattan Project, and how those who created such destructive forces justified what they were doing, it seemed maybe he needed to see God in his science so that he could believe what man had wrought was true and right and just.7/6 I will pick this up again and finish it, but I'm a bit overwhelmed right now and need to de-clutter my "currently reading" list.

  • Jay Green
    2019-02-08 07:41

    This and Crash are two of my favourite books, precisely because of their weirdness, because they showed the teenage me that something surprising and original could be done with the novel form beyond the staid and traditional forms foisted upon us as A level English students. (My less fortunate peers in the soft South had to make do with Hermann Hesse.) Both Crash and the Atrocity Exhibition belong very much to their time, of course, but they do encapsulate a sort of postmodern masculine sociopathy as it is mediated through contemporary culture and geography. In addition, the clinical descriptions and the absence of affect in the narrator (partly, I think, the fortuitous result of Ballard's medical training) lend the books an eerie detachment, a reductio ad absurdum of the blasé attitude identified by Georg Simmel as a psychological by-product/coping mechanism of modernity. Ballard demonstrates beautifully how this blasé attitude, when taken to its logical conclusion - as required by postmodernity (or hypermodernity) - ultimately results in nihilism. Having said all that, as in the case of de Sade, many many readers fail to appreciate just how funny Ballard is. Maybe the dry English sense of humour isn't so readily apparent on paper. Just try to imagine him writing it with a wry smile.

  • Nikki
    2019-02-14 23:43

    I didn't expect to like or understand this book much. The concept, the experimental nature, drew me to it, but I know it isn't the kind of thing I enjoy. Find interesting, maybe, but not enjoy. The Atrocity Exhibition is so bizarre to me, so lacking in coherent narrative, that it's doubly hard to read.This book, the central character (such as he is, with his constantly fluctuating name/identity), is just -- it's a very fine portrayal of someone who is completely disturbed. I find myself wondering if my mother (a psychiatrist) has read it, and what she'd think.(Knowing our shared taste in literature, I would venture to guess that she doesn't think much of Ballard, but I meant in a psychiatric sense.)End result: I'm convinced of Ballard's skill, no doubt -- he writes with a cold clear edge -- and glad I tried this book, but I'm not keeping it, and I think Ballard's imagination is a bizarre and unpleasant place (science as pornography?!). One image that will stay with me is his repeated image of the landscape as the contours of anatomy, or vice versa: "these cliff-towers revealed the first spinal landscapes"...

  • Shawn
    2019-02-20 03:52

    A book (like Pynchon's V or Burrough's cut-up novels) to experience, not read.Seriously, you will be immersing your head (if not your heart) into a strangely dis-associative mindspace, made even more disturbing and poignant by its now-fixed place in the past. If THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION was a a marker, a beacon point in time, where are we, mankind, in relation to it now?Not for everyone, not for the squeamish, not for those looking for a narrative or story, not for the unadventurous, not for the wholesome, and not, I'm sorry to say, for the hopeful. But for the curious who crave a difficult slice of a brilliant, perceptive mind at a moment in time where the future we inhabit now was laid out like the progression of a logical equation (for a writer of the time honest enough to grasp it and commit it to to paper), THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION is a must read.This can't be anyone's favorite book because it wounds you and changes you.UNCOMPROMISING!

  • Jeff Jackson
    2019-02-02 01:31

    One of the most visionary books I've read, a startling series of linked stories cataloging mental breakdowns, reenactments of tragic events, sexual obsessions with architectural patterns, the beneficial affects of war atrocity footage, and celebrity sex-death fantasies. Sample chapter titles: "Plan for the Assassination of Jaqueline Kennedy" and "Why I Want to F*** Ronald Reagan." Horrifying, but also tinged with an odd clinical beauty.

  • Isabel (kittiwake)
    2019-02-04 02:45

    An experimental novel about sex, death, media manipulation, car crashes and celebrity, written at the fag-end of the 1960s and foreshadowing various themes found in his later works. The narrative is very repetitive, with chapters telling versions of more or less the same story, and I found it by turns tedious and repellent. Rather too experimental for my tastes - it has taken me forever to read it, and it's only 184 pages long.

  • Joseph
    2019-02-05 01:46

    I can't decide between three or four stars. Completely random paragraphs...sexuality or cars and more importantly car crashes; JFK, Marilyn, Madme Chiang, and somehow ending plastic surgery. No, none of that is a spoiler. There is no plot, climax, or conclusion...just a tangled journey you get lost in.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-02-21 05:42

    Ballard's iconic experimental novel presupposing the death of affect and lending itself to the horrible drum loop that opens Joy Division's Closer. Includes such fun words as 'mimetized' and 'buccal' and 'polyperverse.' It's mad. Very mad. And also brilliant.

  • Tosh
    2019-01-29 06:29

    First I have to make clear that this is not the ReSearch annotated edition, but a mass market book from a British publisher Thiad Panther, and issued in 1970. Nevertheless this is a very stimulating book. J.G. Ballard is probably one of the great visionary writers regarding culture as it is now. I want to say he predict what will happen, but I think it was happening when he wrote his series of classic novels, but most of us were not aware of that 'Ballard' world that was and is clearly out there and here and everywhere. "The Atrocity Exhibition" is a series of very brief narratives that deal with the John F. Kennedy assassination as the ground zero of anxiety, dread and fear. For Americans at the moment, it's 9/11, but for my generation, the Kennedy assassination opened up an inner world of demons, secrets, and disappearing identities on a landscape one couldn't trust being there or being altered in some fashion. I think Ballard is commenting on the role we all play, but especially the powers-to-be, whoever they may be, in planting a world that is not of our choosing, but one that we just have to deal with. Which includes sexual desire when confronting death, shock, and machinery. Ido not know if his novel "Crash" came before or after "The Atrocity Exhibition, but the book does deal with the same issues of the erotic pull of car accidents and iconic personalities. Ballard gets extra points for including Ralph Nader among the celebrities that get maimed or killed by the automobile. Now mostly remembered for his political viewpoints as well as running for President, he at the time of this novel was famous for going after the automobile industry for not making cars more safer with respect to seat belts, etc. What we get here is a college effect of names, who at the time were still alive, being sacrificed to the automobile death culture as well as interesting commentary on the readers obsession with famous people and how they are placed in our world as entertainment, but also masking secret desires that are not fully exposed to the public. Ballard mixes the agony of death, of losing someone, and how culture eats up the anxiety of the 20th century (and now the 21st...) and spits out in a diseased form, which can be this piece of literature. A great book, whose sister is Burroughs' "Naked Lunch" and a cousin to classic Surrealist painters.

  • Stephen
    2019-01-23 06:40

    Whenever I think of Ballard's work, I sort of want him to be remembered as the underrated Palahniuk of a generation ago. Unfortunately that's not accurate. Palahniuk is a novelist who continually gives us stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end (the way he is supposed to). Ballard, on the other hand, is a flasher. He occasionally whips open his mental raincoat and shows us what he's got. What he shows you is shocking and disturbing, but as a reader you walk away feeling sorry for him in some weird way. All those great perceptive abilities he had...and he spent his energies telling us we shouldn't be obsessive about Marilyn Monroe. Is that really all he had??? That's some weak junk, if you know what I mean!As much as I detest experimental fiction (except maybe for the occasional sci fi short story where they properly belong), I'd have to say that this book worked fairly well. Obsessive, halucinatory, and giddily perverse, this book is about the things we should hate about ourselves -- but for some reason don't. Ballard's mind was at times as sharp as a razor, and unfortunately I think readers of 'The Atrocity Exhibition' will agree that he occasionally used his weapon imprecisely. New readers will walk away from this book thinking that this could have been great.

  • Kevin Tole
    2019-01-29 05:28

    Written before 'Crash' but fundamental in sorting out the ideas that would go into 'Crash'.This is classic Ballard / Ballardian fiction. Even now it feels new and refreshing - so much further beyond the so-called success stories of British Modern literature - I'm talking the generation after Ballard - yer Amis', yer McEwan's and yer Barnes' - yer nouvelle novel vague vogue fugue. In comparison, those luvvies seem a continuation of the same dreary middle class Lahndahnocentric pish that we have come to lurve and accept as British writing when in fact there is SO MUCH more out there which challenges the medium in any way you want to take that. This edition from 4thEstate is particularly good - as indeed have all the other 4thEstate editions of Ballard's books proved to be so far. Not only do you get the text but you also get Ballard revisiting the text after each chapter with notelets and further points of issue, as well as a decent intro from the man and a good interview to exit on. Oh.... and there's William Burrough's getting in on the act in the front too.This is not narrative. If it's narrative you want go and read some Dickens. This is right out there on the edge of new ways to say things. It's as close as I've found to a piece of writing that is and wants to become cross-media. This book could be taken into architecture, film, music, photography and painting so easily - a kind of Art Concret for the mid 60's and onwards. And oh boy! Did it prove troublesome, resulting in an Obscenity trial in the UK and the American edition by Doubleday being pulped when the bloke in charge of / owner of the publisher happened upon the chapter entitled 'Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan' (the book was written between '66 - '68 and published in '70. Ronnie Rayguns was elected to Governor of Kaliphornia in 1966 and President in 1980 - the rise and rise of the rightwing fuckwit proving oh so well its not the brain you got but the deals you cut with the sharp suited men that matter). Whether the Atrocity Exhibition is one book, many booklets, assorted collected writings / scribblings we could sit here and pontificate on for days, as indeed I am sure they do in all Creative Writing departments throughout the land and beyond, for many many a day of hot air (well it's better than getting down to some CREATIVE writing I suppose). It's not worth the bother. Is there a 'message', daddio, in the lines? Well it doesn't change if you read it backwards, sideways or upside down - so it's not a hidden message but it's for you the reader to decide. Are the characters continuous? Who knows! Are the characters contiguous? Possibly! Is it still worthwhile today? OH MOST CERTAINLY!!!!!!!This is a book not only to be savoured by sit-on-the-fences like me but I would haver to say that it is also a book for today's bogus generation - the ones with more front that cannot go anything for more than five seconds without fiddling/diddling with their mobile telephones. Lots n lots n lots of side and cross references. Go to it, young uns - get it on Google - however you may need to extend your attention span beyond the three minutes required generally to tweet. Is it an ebook? I sincerely hope not. Such lists of things to take with / on yer tablet might consist of, but not be limited to:- Kienholz Dodge '58, Max Ernst, E J Marey, the lumpen intelligentsia, the colloquialisation of atrocity, Yesterday's war crime is today's logo, the road from Kuwait City to Basra, sallow, epiphanies of violence and desire, Tabes Dorsalis, the events of 1967, PareticJacopetti, Raymond Roussel. Go to it, Mobbies!!!!!!!! God how you disgust me with your shallowness.Ballard would have loved to have commented on this stuff going down now. The blatant pornograhy of political life from Blair and Bush onwards and the growing (fully mature?) cult of Narcissus that assails us daily.Do read it.It is a most relevant book

  • Fabio Puzzacacca
    2019-02-09 05:30

    Libro letto molto, molto a fatica e, devo dire, con una perenne ed onnipresente perplessità di fondo.Insomma, la retorica di Ballard è una retorica particolare, che ha qualcosa del beat ma mooolto più all'avanguardia. La narrazione intera sembra svilupparsi attraverso un'enorme ed immenso costrutto d'impressioni e connessioni inconscie, quasi insensate, come a volerci semplicemente comunicare COSA nella società è perverso e sporco, senza l'interferenza dell'azione e ricostruendo processi di natura profondamente psicologica. Traendo dagli archetipi e non dall'Io cosciente, dalla libera associazone e non dal bisogno di comunicare vero e proprio.Poi per carità, dal punto di vista stilistico non fa una piega. E' chiaro e consapevole, e non c'è una frase che stoni o paia fuori posto. E' perfetto, geniale, e sarebbe anche incredibilmente scorrevole se non fosse per il modo in le diverse storie sono connesse, come il frutto della sconvolta e confusa mente di uno schizofrenico che poi, s'intuisce, non sarebbe altro che lo stesso lettore, il sempre distratto ma continuamente indaffarato uomo contemporaneo.In effetti, la mostra delle atrocità non sembrebbe che un titanico sforzo di mettere a nudo le mostruosità nascoste fra le innumerevoli facciate della convenzione sociale ( sarà per questo che lo subito associato alla beat-generation?), un tentativo molto vicino a quello di Bosch, ma con una vena di irrazionalità molto più evidente. Per darvi un esempio immediato, evidenzio una delle numerosissime note inserite dalla autore a pié di pagina, una di quelle che mi ha più colpito:"I poligoni di tiro hanno un loro speciale fascino con tutta quella tecnologia distruttiva concentrata sulla produzione del nulla: è lo stadio più vicino a certi stati ossessivi della mente a cui si possa arrivare."Questo piccolo scorcio del libro contiene in sè, a parer mio, un' intera riflessione sociologica nonché una sorta di celata bellezza poetica, data dall'uso che Ballard ha fatto della libera associazione.Poi c'è questa,poco dopo, a pagina 13, che mi ha addirittura commosso per via del suo aspetto vagamente spirituale:"Sembra incredibile, ma ho il dubbio di essere andato ad abitare a Shepperton, trent'anni fa, già sapendo inconsciamente che un giorno avrei scritto un romanzo sulle mie esperienze a Shangai durante la guerra, e che ne sarebbe stato tratto un film, girato proprio in questi studi. Tutta la nostra vita è percorsa sotteraneamente da percorsi già assegnati: le coincidenze non esistono"In poche parole, Ballard non è tutto da buttare, come alcuni dicono. Sebbene la sua retorica sia di difficilissima comprensione, ha comunque realizzato un'opera di grande valore sociale. Sono la mia scarsa intelligenza e la mia ignoranza,credo, ad impedirmi di comprenderlo ed apprezzarlo appieno. Consigliato agli amanti della letteratura ipperrealistica e di tutta quella roba stramboide ^__^ Tre stelle.

  • Burninghouse
    2019-02-02 04:43

    Dated.Best read as suggested by the author himself: incompletely and at random.

  • Lee Foust
    2019-02-01 00:28

    The Atrocity Exhibition is a brilliantly conceived piece of fiction. In fact it's the only novel I know that comes close to the perspicacity regarding the political state of the world of Orwell's 1984. And I mean "political" in the very largest sense of the word--not the partisan tribal party nonsense--but the way we receive information, act upon it, what it means, and how we live both mentally and physically in the modern post-industrial nation state.As I read I was reminded of Steven Moore's contention that novels are exercises in adapting different forms of rhetoric to a narrative. Normally I bemoan Ballard's arch, pseudo-scientific prose style even when I enjoy the ideas and plots of his stories and novels. The Atrocity Exhibition, on the other hand, is a perfect marriage of style and content; for this pseudo-psychological study of a therapeutic experimental art show produced by a doctor or perhaps patient of a mental institution could only be told in such language. The disjointed images and out of order events and digressions on all manner of popular culture, news, consumer reports, violence, war, and auto crashes--and studies of their relationships with human sexuality--is just perfectly suited to this overwrought prose that walks a thin line between sounding clinical or madly overdone. It's the very tone the media has been courting since the last World War--and Ballard's use of it, as a science fiction projected into the future, really nails exactly what my TV sounds like today, in 2018.I picked up The Atrocity Exhibition for a re-read (I believe this was my third time through) a couple of weeks back as I'm currently working on a novel of my own that attempts to blend registers of reportage, history, pornography, personal essay, and parodies of other, more artistic, great works of literature in an attack on the strategies of the new fascism spreading throughout the Occidental world right now. And, as I expected, The Atrocity Exhibition is amazingly relevant in today's world of fake news and out-and-out lies, memes and internet hatred, paranoia and alternative facts, in which the collective libido seems charged by nothing so much as images of war refugees and immigrants tortured, killed, or fatally adrift on the Mediterranean sea. (An Italian flag-clad psychopath who had recently run for office on the Lega Nord ticket in Macerata shot several Africans today, giving the Fascist salute as police dragged him to the ground and handcuffed him.)Wish me luck--we immigrants have got to stick together. Every high school student in the Western world should read The Atrocity Exhibition and 1984 as a matter of course from now on. Sadly, I think they'll remain relevant for a very long time. I hope my own novel will be a worthy addition to these important political novels.

  • John Madera
    2019-01-25 04:34

    J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition is a visceral phantasmagoria dismantling and remaking celebrities and politicians and various other strange, estranged, and/or deranged figures, where bodies merge with machines and machines come alive. Often seemingly free associative while actually incredibly controlled: "surgically" precise, the disorienting narratives, which discard conventional plots and so-called character development, are often upsetting or outright revolting. And it's all delivered with a kind of clinical detachment, its relentlessly harrowing satire and absurdism an even bleaker precursor to both Ben Marcus and George Saunders, but not nearly as comic as the latter.

  • Jonnathan Opazo
    2019-01-28 02:42

    máquinas y perversiones

  • Laura
    2019-02-21 02:35

    Undeniably disturbing but hauntingly memorable, The Atrocity Exhibition is difficult to rate, review or even describe. Utterly unconventional in every way, it is a diverse collection of largely unconnected snippets – some are narrative-based while others are fictitious scientific reports. Together they form a monstrous, disjointed portrait of violence, eroticism and celebrity. It's a satirical exploration of what types of grotesque, violent injuries are the most sexually arousing. (Although, such a description doesn't come close to capturing the full breadth of this book. As many other reviewers have also noted, it's honestly quite difficult to summarise.)Linked inextricably to the time period it was written in, The Atrocity Exhibition derives much of its unsettling imagery from the Second World War and the era of classic Hollywood stars. Many of J.G. Ballard's real life experiences are woven in there as well, for example the death of his wife. Many (most?) readers will find this book unappealing and offensive but it nonetheless contains some very insightful thematic ideas, particularly about the media, many of which still resonate today.The edition I read included extensive annotations written by Ballard which elucidate where the germ ideas for each snippet originated from. These annotations arguably make the intellectual and frequently bizarre text more accessible. They also successful expose the mind of the artist, exposing the process of inspiration and creation – I especially enjoyed reading about Ballard's fascination with space exploration. The Atrocity Exhibition is disgusting, shocking, weird, confusing, pornographic and rather pretentious. It's also endlessly thought-provoking. It's easy to see its continuing influence on contemporary literature, cinema and art.