My first finished book of 2016 is, arguably, one of the 20th Century’s most infamous.
J.G.Ballard is, by any measure, one of Britain’s greatest authors. A truly original writer who, with constant reinvention and reappraisal, had managed to stay relevant for his entire life.
Crash is, to many people, his defining work. To many others it’d be Cocaine Nights, or Empire of the Sun. Or, maybe, Millennium People. Actually, probably not.
Crash, is the Dystopian view of the now, and not any cliched ‘bizarre’ future, where the (literal) collision of sex and cars meets, in a manifesto to both live, and die by. By those affected by the horror of car crashes, and the limbo existence of survival that follows.
Ballard sketches a world of obsessed individuals, convincing themselves that they are in relationships, desperate to appease one-another but, ultimately, appeasing the only person they love, the enigmatic Vaughan.
Vaughan, the television scientist turned care-crash aficionado, is obsessed by the conjunction of cars and sex. The dynamic of congress and the fearsome reality of sex and the impact of car upon car is, to Vaughan, to ultimate expression of human existence.
He pursues his desire for the ultimate, truthful reality of orgasm, found within the vinyl and leatherette stitching of a smashing convertible. Sex as death, as sex, as death, as sex, as truth. It’s a truth that everyone else desires but, only subscribe to because Vaughan has romanticized them into it.
The language is sparse, unromantic and direct. The are no spare similes or allusions. All realities are described directly, medically almost. It’s unrelenting and without subterfuge. There is no distraction from the ending, no false turns or red herrings. The end is so inevitable that Ballard tells you it in the first chapter. You know what will happen. It’s unimportant that you know. Everyone in the book knows so, why not you?
The poetry in the simplicity of language is entrancing. The inevitability of all of the protagonists, the many of them, is laid bare. It’s almost impossible not to read on and on into the vigorous, effluent prose. Ballard is visceral and honest, exposing the realities of 20th century obsessions with progress and invention but, ultimately, in thrall to the majesty of technology, power and automation. And, its slaves.
It’s a short, powerful read and, for those not ashamed at reading pornography and horror, I cannot recommend it enough.