Saturday, 9 February 2008

Crash by J.G.Ballard

In reading most works by J.G. Ballard you need to be prepared for dystopian modernity, with bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. Crash 1973 is central to that view of his writing. It is a phonographic depiction of sexually fetished car crashes and the resulting body deformities. You know you are in for a bumpy ride(yes I know) when one of the scenes is about sex with a willing invalid car driver (remember the little green boxes on wheels) who because of wounds and missing or damaged limbs has more holes capable of penetrative sex.

The story starts with a couple that have an open sexual relationship so sleeping with different partners carrying out any type of penetrative sex imaginable and more you haven’t. And get their kicks in telling each other etc. On the way to work “Ballard” kills someone in a head on car crash gets drawn into a sub world of men and women who get their sexual kicks from sex in crashed or crashing cars and attending car crashes. He had noticed Vaughan photographing him at the accident and the hospital. Through him “Ballard” gets drawn into ever more violent sexual activity, including becoming aroused and having sex with him using his scars as a scaffold to…

A central story line is the plot by Vaughan to die having sex while crashing into a car containing the hottest top female film star of the day. “Ballard’s” wife in between a lesbian affair gets the hots for him and gets xxxxed in the backseat as “Ballard” drives at dangerous speeds watching them in the rear mirror.

How much of this is about Ballard’s own sexual kicks is unclear as in 1970 Ballard organized an exhibition of crashed cars at the New Arts Laboratory, appropriately called "Crashed Cars". The crashed vehicles and their sexual potential were displayed without commentary, inspiring vitriolic responses and vandalism. The main character of Crash is called James Ballard living in Shepperton as did the author. And he suffered a serious automobile accident shortly after completing the novel.

The book must not be confused with the 2004 film Crash which is an Academy Award-winning drama film directed by Paul Haggis. This film seeks to depict and examine not only racial tension, but also the distance between strangers in general. The film of the book is 1996 film directed by David Cronenberg. It was praised and attacked in equal measure and won a special prize for daring, audacity, and originality at the Cannes film festival.

So why ,if you are still with me, would you bother to read what appears to be such a distasteful book? The clue is in the structure and descriptions of the book repetitive phraseology of medical sexual teams and the descriptions of the car and body parts. It means that you the reader experience the alienation and emptiness that is the heart of the story. The story is not erotic in any sense as it point to the emptiness of lives that depend on more and more extreme highs and drugs to keep the sexual tension going. Death then becomes the ultimate sexual act. Nowhere does love and community figure in a world of motorways, airports, roundabouts and technological emptiness. What ever the feelings and motives of the writer, the story serves as a warning of a society that obsesses objects and appearances over personal relationships and social community-who cares for the children in this vision of our lives?

I didn’t find it a easy read and was reluctant to spend time reading it but would recommend it for the importance of us seeking to avoid a reality that could become our world if we cease to love.

The success of love is in the loving; it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.

Mother Teresa

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