Review – The Atrocity Exhibition

Posted January 19, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Atrocity Exhibition by JG BallardThe Atrocity Exhibition, J.G. Ballard

I didn’t expect to like or understand this book much. The concept, the experimental nature, drew me to it, but I know it isn’t the kind of thing I enjoy. Find interesting, maybe, but not enjoy. The Atrocity Exhibition is so bizarre to me, so lacking in coherent narrative, that it’s doubly hard to read.

This book, the central character (such as he is, with his constantly fluctuating name/identity), is just — it’s a very fine portrayal of someone who is completely disturbed. I find myself wondering if my mother (a psychiatrist) has read it, and what she’d think.

(Knowing our shared taste in literature, I would venture to guess that she doesn’t think much of Ballard, but I meant in a psychiatric sense.)

End result: I’m convinced of Ballard’s skill, no doubt — he writes with a cold clear edge — and glad I tried this book, but I’m not keeping it, and I think Ballard’s imagination is a bizarre and unpleasant place (science as pornography?!). One image that will stay with me is his repeated image of the landscape as the contours of anatomy, or vice versa: “these cliff-towers revealed the first spinal landscapes”…

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4 responses to “Review – The Atrocity Exhibition

  1. Yeah, I’m just not into the bizarre, incoherent experimental works. I don’t mind some efforts to do something unique, but I prefer a straight forward story to also be a part of the overall package. I have yet to read Ballard, and have some of his stuff that I have read good things about. I’ll give this one a pass.

    • Yeah, I was intending to try Ballard via one of his more accessible works, but I was bizarrely drawn to the idea of this one. I can admire the idea without ‘getting’ or liking it, though, which is what usually happens…

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