Sunday, January 29, 2012

J.G. Ballard

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.

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