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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) by J.G. Ballard

Book Review
The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)
by J.G. Ballard

   The Atrocity Exhibition showcases the more experimental side of J.G. Ballard.  The book is comprised of a series of previously published short stories which are "linked" through overlapping sets of characters.   Calling each of the chapters a "short story" isn't very accurate, it's more like a series of thematically related prose experiments in the style of Burroughsian cut-up or the formal prose experiments of mid 20th century French authors like Bataille, Perec and Queneau.  There are also echoes of William Burroughs more coherent passages in Naked Lunch and Ballard's own pioneering dystopia's of the 1960;s.

  Many of the chapters echo the plot of Crash, which was published in 1972- the same years as Grove Press published The Atrocity Exhibition in the United States (the 1970 publication date is in the U.K.)  It's clear from the thematic similarity of his collected stories: obsessed with the relationship between sex, death and consumer culture, that Ballard had a recognizable aesthetic as early as the mid 1960's. Ballard may have been the first writer of speculative fiction to take an antagonistic stance towards the future chances of the human species. 

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