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The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)

by J. G. Ballard

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1,484269,634 (3.67)46
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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English (23)  Danish (2)  Romanian (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Some stuff-- freemason conspiracies, protein powder, the band Shellac-- I write off as weird stuff for white dudes, and I would have to reluctantly include this. I understand how dissonant qualities work in music but I don't in fiction; the addenda here helped me make some sense of it. At heart, though, I really don't care about, ya know, sexuality realized through violence, or manmade geometries, or anything, I don't care, I don't get it. I like love stories, fantasy epics, a nice bildungsroman. More interesting than a lot of jerkoff lit like it but only marginally. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
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. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Here is the amazing true story about my experience reading the #2 novel in my J.G. Ballard Binge, The Atrocity Exhibition.

I picked this one up and opened it to a random page…and I read a sentence that was remarkably strange.

Here is the sentence:

He sat on the edge of the water-filled basin, staring into the lucid depths of that exposed placenta.

So I did it again, opening the book to a random page, and got:

The profound anality of the Presidential contender may be expected to dominate the United States in the coming years.

And because it always feels incomplete unless you do a thing three times, I opened it again, and discovered this sentence:

The fine sand poured into the hollows, a transfer of geometry as delicate as a series of whispers.

After that I was done with my experiment and I went to the beginning, and what do you know, my edition included a foreword from J.G. Ballard, and in it, Ballard suggested that I open this book up and read random sentences, because that was the way he had written it.

Of course now that I had permission from the author himself to read his book chaotically and unpredictably, the thrill turned flat, and I read it from start to finish, but as I read I could not shake the idea that any order of the sentences that make up this novel would be just as startling and unexpected as the order Ballard ordered them in.

That’s kind of incredible. It’s a book that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and yet it fills the senses. This novel is a sense-filled experience to read.

It is also a time capsule kind of book, in that the references are all about dead people, some of whom haven't remained so in/famous with the passing years since the novel was first published.

The Atrocity Exhibition is my second novel in my April 2019 J.G. Ballard binge, following Running Wild, which I liked better. But I liked them both a lot.

If you want to read some Ballard with me come join in the fun right here:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19689095
( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
I read this book on a plane. I should have read it in a car. I should have read it when it came out in the late 60s (I realize it had quite an absurd publication history, and was published in the States in 71 (?)) However, it turns out history repeats itself, because a lot of what he is worried about still concerns us now: celebrities as a construct (Kim Kardashian), our creation of technology that can destroy us (cars and nuclear weapons), celebrity presidents (Reagan/Trump)... although we haven't had as many traumatic celebrity/presidential deaths in recent years (Princess Diana is the exception here). Ballard's wife's death looms large in this book. I was surprised to find out she died of pneumonia... not a car accident. What explains his bizarre obsession with sex and car accidents? I'll have to read his memoirs to find out I suppose.
I liked this book, but felt as though it was not as good as it could be. The first half has some good ideas and quotes, but doesn't hold together well. The second half felt much stronger. I actually feel like Ballard's annotations are oftentimes better than the text to which it is annotating. He has some beautiful and interesting insights. I feel like Crash is the realization of the potential that is displayed here. Great book (Crash). In that way, this book may be more for Ballard fans than for your typical reader. 3.5/5 ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
An impossible book to recommend, yet I'm sure I'll remember it (and on several levels, appreciate it) for a long time. Its vile imagery and opaque structure are made no easier to swallow by Ballard's farcical regurgitation of 60/70s pop culture. If you wish for a more disciplined Burroughs, this is for you. Otherwise, nod politely and move on. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
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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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Average: (3.67)
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