Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Crash, by J.G. Ballard

(pb; 1973)

From the back cover:

"In this hallucinatory novel, the car provides the hellish tableau in which Vaughn, a 'T.V. scientist' turned 'nightmare angel of the highways,' experiments with erotic atrocities among auto crash victims, each more sinister than the last. James Ballard, his friend and fellow obsessive, tells the story of this twisted visionary as he careens rapidly toward his own demise in an intentionally orchestrated car crash with Elizabeth Taylor.

"An underground classic, Crash explores the disturbing potentialities of contemporary society's increasing dependency on technology as intermediary in human relations."


Crash is focused (even as it feverishly rambles), deliciously perverse, poetically single-minded and made me view fellow motorists in a fresh and alarming way. Because of this book, I no longer view roads and streets as mere thoroughfares. They are more than that: they are battlegrounds where our desires, psychological damage and metal meet -- or could meet, in the Ballard/Vaughn sense of the world.

I've read books written in this fervid, stream-of-consciousness vein before, but few writers have maintained that grim, brilliant edge the way Crash does.

Own, don't borrow, this.

The resulting film, released stateside on March 21, 1997, was directed by David Cronenberg.

James Spader played James Ballard. Holly Hunter played Helen Remington. Elias Koteas played Vaughn. Deborah Kara Unger played Catherine Ballard. Rosanna Arquette played Gabrielle.

Side note: Chuck Palahniuk's Rant explored a similar-yet-differentiated theme. If you like Crash, there's a good chance you'll like Rant.

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