I've been catching up with J.G. Ballard for the first time since college. I read The Crystal World last week, and am currently half-way through a collection of short stories he published in 1990 called War Fever. After that, Empire of the Sun is waiting on my shelf.
At least a percentage of Ballard's popularity is owed to the fact that he's very fashionable. His modern-day parables are subversive, shocking, cerebral, frequently disgusting, and often inaccessible, which is always a sure-fire recipe for success with the literati. Still, he WAS undeniably imaginative and talented. He had a well-deserved effect on the mental environment of the twentieth century, and that alone makes him worth at least knowing about. I have to admit I've been digging the hell out of him this time around.
Crash, his most infamous book, tells the story of a man who survives a near-fatal accident, then develops an erotic fixation with car crashes. He soon falls in with a subculture of crash-fetishists, and begins orchestrating his own death in what he believes to be the ultimate erotic experience: an elaborate car crash culminating in a head-on collision with Elizabeth Taylor. The book itself is horrifically unpleasant, but its moral is poignant:
Technology is sexy, but it's also dangerous, and it might kill us.
Last week I did a YouTube search for the trailer of David Cronenberg's film adaptation (which I still haven't gotten around to watching.) I glanced at the comments below, and saw that almost all of them were typically YouTubian insults directed at some poor teenager. I dug through the feed to find exactly what she said:
"Our teacher told us we had to watch this for class so I rented it. I don't get how this movie is about racism in people's lives at all. I reported her to my principal for making us watch this sick movie for a unit on racial tolerance!"
Oh, da yoots of today.