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The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)

by J. G. Ballard

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1,6773310,273 (3.68)53
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.
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» See also 53 mentions

English (29)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
fellas have you ever wanted to fuck a wall? ( )
  avv999 | Feb 16, 2024 |
This review is more or less a random collage of fragments that appealed to me: fragments of reviews found on Goodreads, of the book’s preface by William Burroughs, of Hari Kunzru’s introduction, of a 2019 text by Rob Doyle in The Irish Times, and quotes from Ballard & the book itself.

Part of this review also went through an additional process, as I asked an AI to attempt to integrate & summarize some of these fragments into a coherent whole – but I don’t think it did very well on that front.

My editing is fairly minimal, not zero. I also wrote a few sentences or parts of sentence of my own.

(...)

Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It ( )
  bormgans | Feb 6, 2023 |
“The Atrocity Exhibition” is an experimental “novel” apparently about the confusing interminglings of sex and violence forced on the psyche that take place in a sociocultural environment marked by (e.g.):
* Repeated exposure to shocking human suffering (war, car crashes, assassination; each proudly televised on cable news)
* The proliferation of celebrities’ bodies into the public consciousness; more and more of their sexualities externalized for consumption
* Whatever you’d call the sexual equivalent of the addict’s mounting need for an even greater fix than the last, happening on a grand scale, reducing the most perverse into outdated kitsch; relatedly the sexual fetishization of anything and everything
* Scientism and psychologism reframing man as mere processes, functions of space and time acting out within confined geometric space and good old linear time
* Et cetera.

The “novel” is not really one in a traditional sense. The first ten or so chapters feature the protagonist Travis/Travers/Talbert/Traven/ect. playing out different psychosexual roles, making sense of life through car crashes, geometry, sex, atrocities, films, psychosis, etc. with strategies that are difficult for an outside viewer to make sense of. These chapters are not really connected except by a sort of insanity and randomness running through them. Certain themes and characters appear and reappear: a doctor, a love interest, JFK, geometry, Jackie Kennedy, car crashes, sexual fetishes, helicopters, textbook jargon, the reassignment of sexual value to apparently sexless objects like bridges, mounds of dirt, and empty river basins. These ideas surface and then disappear in little half-page subtitled vignettes; a chapter constitutes about 15 vignettes.

After those are a couple unlinked chapters, with similar themes but even less character and plot. I guess it’s called an “experimental novel” for a reason. One of those chapters is titled “Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan,” incidentally written before his presidency.

My summary feelings about this book are that (1) it was very oblique in structure, casting aside plot, character, and reliable narration in favor of hammering home themes through repetition and reconfiguration, (2) I was surprised to find the protagonist’s psychotic sexuality (by 1960s standards) not too far off from my own, (3) Ballard is one of the few authors I’ve read who is willing to admit to the most abstract perversions: reassembling the bodies of celebrities on ourselves and others, the drug user’s need for a greater sexual hit, the fear that we can only make contact with one another at the intersections of our inner perversions during intercourse, the random moments of the normal surface world suddenly revealing its geometry, the excitation of violence and atrocity. Metaphorically it was a little bit of a scary read because I’m not used to swimming without my floaties, but I never would have learned to swim otherwise. ( )
  jammymammu | Jan 6, 2023 |
1970 experimental novel of short, connected stories that explore the mass media's impact on the mind and this book does impact the mind with series of violent, sexual descriptions and speculations of pornographic details. I rated it 2.4

4- legacy of looking at impacts of culture (mass media)
2 - not much plot, pretty schizophrenic which might be the point
2 - no characters really, mentally ill narrator
3 - readability, ouch, an attack on the eye, ear, brain
1 - achievement.
Rating 2.4 ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 2, 2023 |
Collection of short fiction focused on atrocities (and the atrocious) times in the 1960s-70s. ( )
  brakketh | Jul 29, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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A disquieting feature of this annual exhibition - to which the patients themselves were not invited - was the marked preoccupation of the paintings with the theme of world cataclysm, as if these long-incarcerated patients had sensed some seismic upheaval within the minds of their doctors and nurses.
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The first US edition of this book was pulped in 1970 following legal advice. It was published in 1972 under the title Love and Napalm: Export USA
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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.

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