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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Cocaine Nights (1996) by J.G. Ballard


Book Review
Cocaine Nights  (1996)
 by J.G. Ballard

 A book written in 1996 means that there are only ten more years left in the first edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  It also means that the editors are basically guessing at this point, since there were plenty of authors writing books in 1996 who didn't make the canon until after 1001 Books was put together.  The period between 1996-2006 reflects what people thought canonical in the present- that is a contradiction in terms, time being the one factor required before a true argument for canonical or non-canonical status is advanced.

  Whether Cocaine Nights is or is not canon makes little difference to me; I just like to read J.G. Ballard novels, and the weirder the better.  Cocaine Nights is weird in that it is a work of crime/detective fiction, with a travel writer older brother heading down to the Costa del Spain to examine the circumstances surrounding the arrest (and confession) of his brother over the deaths of five expats in a highly suspicious fire.   Charles Prentice, the older brother and narrator, is gradually drawn into a world of petty crime, recreational drugs and be-spoke pornography, seemingly abandoning his mission and allowing himself to become corrupted.

  In the end, it turns into classic Ballard, with characters espousing their theories of the coming "leisure society" and what it means.  Considering that Ballard was writing before the internet, his hypothesis sound prescient- the idea of wealthy westerners living in antiseptic condos devoid of community or human interaction sounds very much like the world of today.

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