Crash: A Novel

Crash: A Novel


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The Definitive Cult, Postmodern Novel—a Shocking Blend of Violence, Transgression, and Eroticism

Reissued with a New Introduction from Zadie Smith

When J. G. Ballard, our narrator, smashes his car into another and watches a man die in front of him, he finds himself drawn with increasing intensity to the mangled impacts of car crashes. Robert Vaughan, a former TV scientist turned nightmare angel of the expressway, has gathered around him a collection of alienated crash victims and experiments with a series of autoerotic atrocities, each more sinister than the last. But Vaughan craves the ultimate crash—a head-on collision of blood, semen, engine coolant, and iconic celebrity.

First published in 1973, Crash remains one of the most shocking novels of the twentieth century and was made into an equally controversial film by David Cronenberg.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250171511
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 12/05/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 340,546
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

J. G. BALLARD was born in 1930 in Shanghai. After internment in a civilian prison camp, his family returned to England in 1946. His 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His controversial novel Crash was made into a film by David Cronenberg. His autobiography Miracles of Life was published in 2008, and a collection of interviews with the author, Extreme Metaphors, was published in 2012. J. G. Ballard passed away in 2009.

What People are Saying About This

Anthony Burgess

"A work of very powerful originality."

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Crash 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A brilliant depiction of the barriers that technology creates between people - and the efforts to crash through them to obtain some semblance of human intimacy. The car crashes jolt the dislocated characters out of the numbness of a technologically sterile world. The crashes become a vehicle to enable the main character, named Jim Ballard, to feel. Once Jim begins to feel, his sex drive is reawakened. But as a result, the resulting sex becomes ever-more violent. But no matter how many car crashes are attempted, the characters never seem to reach their destination. It's the Ballard dilemma. Is the cure any better than the disease? The misplaced hype over this book (because of the movie) links automobile crashes and eroticsim. That's not what Ballard is writing about. The car crashes don't arouse the sex drive, they jar the main character into gear. Car driving and sex drive is not original, of course, but the handling of the subject is in Ballard's able hands. He is writing about a husband who has lost his direction within his marriage and is trying to find the route back to his wife. Ballard usually uses a very simple plot concept. It is what he does with it that is so thrilling and unique. (Best line in the book: JFK's killing was technically a car crash.) This book came out in the early 70s, so it does anticipate much of the imitative fiction of the last 30 years that mixes black tech and bad sex. Ballard is so far ahead of everyone else in the subjects he tackles and the way he deals with them that he isn't on anyone's radar. The key to understanding Ballard is that because of his personal experience, he writes about people in extreme situations - those who voluntarily pass through or simply find themselves tossed beyond the borders of normalcy into a strange, undefined, unchartered territory -- which is known as Ballard country. Don't get put off by the 'auto-eroticism' of Crash. He's not going for a cheap thrill here. He is using car crashes and sex to depict people who are trying to fathom their lives and their futures - just as he uses the melting of the polar ice caps in his first book or a teenager trying to survive a Japanese prison camp during World War II (as Ballard himself did) in his most best-known book, Empire of the Sun. No one else portrays the inexplicable behavior of flawed humans struggling to survive baffling circumstances as they try to enter into their unknowable futures as well as Ballard. His books are as unpredictable as life. You never know how a Ballard book will end, or what his characters will do. That is why he is simply the best and most original writer working today. If you want to read someone who isn't imitating someone else, following the current trend in an attempt to be edgy, annoyingly self-introspective, or is tediously predictable in character, style or plot, read Ballard.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the first time i have ever written one of these things, but i considered it my duty after reading the misguided review by the gentleman who gave this book one star. nonsense !! few books delve so profoundly and intensely into the techno-driven, nightmarishly isolating reality of 20th century life. it disturbes & repulses,grips unrelentingly the darker side of the imagination. a technological pycho sexual classic. truly original, truly unforgetable. take anthony burgess' advice on this one !
mausergem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story is told in first person by James Ballard himself. Ballard has an accident where he is injured. The other driver is killed and his fellow passenger is hurt. After returning from the hospital Ballard makes automobile erotic connotations. He meets Vaughan who introduces him to other automobile accident victims who are experiencing similar fantasies. What follows are a lot of crashes and a lot of sex. Vaughan¿s fantasies in time mature and he wants to crash his car into Elizabeth Taylor¿s car and die in the process which will mark his mating with the actress. He dies in the process but palts the seed of his psychopathic tendencies in his followers.Full marks for the style but no marks for the story. When it came out in 1973, it must have shocked a lot of people for its graphic descriptions of the accidents and the sex acts. ¿Technology will mark our lives¿ is the message.
ConnieJo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a terrible, terrible read. I've got a pretty strong stomach, and I went into this expecting to like it after hearing it was a cult classic.The problem for me was not so much the gore, though there is a lot of graphic descriptions of injuries. The problem is the bland, repetitive writing. The entire first chapter is just paragraph after paragraph of descriptions of accidents. The first three chapters are all sort of like this, with minimal plot slipped in. Well, actually, the entire book is like this, I think I probably just got used to it after awhile. The characters simply move from place to place while the main character ponders what happens to both cars and people in car crashes.That was my biggest problem with Crash. It's also depraved, which I could deal with if it wasn't so boring to read. Lots and lots and lots of sex happens, the main character and his wife often have affairs that they describe to one another in order to stimulate their sexual appetites for one another. Vaughn, the one who starts the car crash obsessions, frequently masturbates to car accidents. The characters use each other's wounds and scars from their accidents as sexual stimulants. The characters also frequently drive around highways causing near-accidents, but mostly just drive infinitely around looking for recent accident sites.So, yes. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.
HvyMetalMG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh boy does this book crash. It crashes and burns in a 10 car pile up! Eh, I could not even finish it. Maybe that's what I deserve for reading a book about people who get thier sexual pleasures off watching and being in car crashes. Can someone tell me if I'm missing something here?
EnriqueFreeque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Too emotionally empty for my taste -- which was probably a part of Ballard's point regarding technology -- and I don't mind a disturbing read (in fact I enjoy a disturbing read) but this (and I realize I go against the grain here) had no point or purpose for me. Maybe I'm stupid and just didn't "get" it. People crash. Crash victims have sex in crumpled cars. There is something erotic about cars crashing. WhatEVER!! I so wanted to like this book. I felt icky reading it, and I'm not completely sure why. I'm certainly no prude. I absolutely loved Vollmann's "Royal Family" and it's a hell of a lot more vulgar than this. I suppose if Ballard's goal was to repulse and repel me in an unenjoyable way (I enjoy being repulsed & repelled in enjoyable ways, mind you) then he masterfully succeeded. I couldn't relate to these characters; I didn't like them; they were mostly disgusting and gross and morally repugnant (again, not that I'm Mr. Morals here, I'm certainly not) but there was nothing redeemable or hopeful about them, or in the plot, which really wasn't a plot but a series of car crashes infused with erotica by deranged if not demented minds. Usually, this kind of writing attracts me. I think this did not because of its overwhelming nihilism. I like nihilism, a la Bret Ellis or Hemingway or early Didion; I like them because they interweave their nihilism with either humor or detached outrage -- but there's neither of those qualities in "Crash". It's mind numbingly nihilistic. I suspect that Ballard may have been trying to elicit such a reaction, but at least, man, mix in some black humor along the way. If you're going to numb me with meaninglessness, at least make me smile if not chuckle a few times along the way. I can't imagine how awful the film version of this must be.
SatsumaHouse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gorgeously written renewal of futurism for the automobile age. Though didactic and repetitious (like many dystopias), this novel sparkles with the all the frisson of a newly liberated fetish.
neiljohnford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't that keen on this one. Maybe I completely missed the point but I don't think this really deserves the acclaim it has. Most of the characters were poorly drawn. I didn't really relate to the main characters and also variations on the word "stylised" were overused. Don't get it (in that I don't get it and also advise others not to).
alexrichman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The trouble with pornographic writing is that too much creativity has you nominated for the Bad Sex award for tortured metaphors - but playing it straight means using words like "pubis" forty times in twenty pages, as Ballard seems to here. Surely the dullest 'shocking' novel ever; all the characters do is drive around, crash and have sex (often mixing the latter option with the two previous ones). Had I seen the author's explanation of his motives for writing Crash - "I wanted to rub humanity's face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror" - I would have avoided this nonsense. Others should learn from my mistake.
c_j_bolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a difficult book. It's both unrelenting and monotonous in its deliberately provocative, yet banal style. I don't normally review the books I read but felt compelled to add my comments to the discussion that has gone before re: Crash, particularly regarding it being the 'dullest "shocking" novel ever'. I think there is a lot of truth in that quote. Ballard has clearly worked out a grand schema for both the style and content of Crash, but I can't help but feel the achievement is undermined by the ultimate fungibility of each of the characters and the lack of any attempt to explain their nihilism. Also, bizarrely - for a short work - the novel seems too long to sustain the conveyor belt repetition of 'sex acts', metaphor and fetishes. I think Ballard's idea might have been better served by a novella, dropping some of the more mind-numbing passages. You'll need some resolve to finish this and to be frank I'm not sure its worth the bother, despite the plaudits from some.
andyjb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harsh and disturbing. This was one uncomfortable read. Beautiful prose about a dark subject, I found reading this an unnerving experience.
ablueidol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In reading most works by J.G. Ballard you need to be prepared for dystopian modernity, with bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. Crash 1973 is central to that view of his writing. It is a phonographic depiction of sexually fetished car crashes and the resulting body deformities. You know you are in for a bumpy ride(yes I know) when one of the scenes is about sex with a willing invalid car driver (remember the little green boxes on wheels) who because of wounds and missing or damaged limbs has more holes capable of penetrative sex.The story starts with a couple that have an open sexual relationship so sleeping with different partners carrying out any type of penetrative sex imaginable and more you haven¿t. And get their kicks in telling each other etc. On the way to work ¿Ballard¿ kills someone in a head on car crash gets drawn into a sub world of men and women who get their sexual kicks from sex in crashed or crashing cars and attending car crashes. He had noticed Vaughan photographing him at the accident and the hospital. Through him ¿Ballard¿ gets drawn into ever more violent sexual activity, including becoming aroused and having sex with him using his scars as a scaffold to¿A central story line is the plot by Vaughan to die having sex while crashing into a car containing the hottest top female film star of the day. ¿Ballard¿s¿ wife in between a lesbian affair gets the hots for him and gets xxxxed in the backseat as ¿Ballard¿ drives at dangerous speeds watching them in the rear mirror.How much of this is about Ballard¿s own sexual kicks is unclear as in 1970 Ballard organized an exhibition of crashed cars at the New Arts Laboratory, appropriately called "Crashed Cars". The crashed vehicles and their sexual potential were displayed without commentary, inspiring vitriolic responses and vandalism. The main character of Crash is called James Ballard living in Shepperton as did the author. And he suffered a serious automobile accident shortly after completing the novel. The book must not be confused with the 2004 film Crash which is an Academy Award-winning drama film directed by Paul Haggis. This film seeks to depict and examine not only racial tension, but also the distance between strangers in general. The film of the book is 1996 film directed by David Cronenberg. It was praised and attacked in equal measure and won a special prize for daring, audacity, and originality at the Cannes film festival.So why ,if you are still with me, would you bother to read what appears to be such a distasteful book? The clue is in the structure and descriptions of the book repetitive phraseology of medical sexual teams and the descriptions of the car and body parts. It means that you the reader experience the alienation and emptiness that is the heart of the story. The story is not erotic in any sense as it point to the emptiness of lives that depend on more and more extreme highs and drugs to keep the sexual tension going. Death then becomes the ultimate sexual act. Nowhere does love and community figure in a world of motorways, airports, roundabouts and technological emptiness. What ever the feelings and motives of the writer, the story serves as a warning of a society that obsesses objects and appearances over personal relationships and social community-who cares for the children in this vision of our lives?I didn¿t find it an easy read and was reluctant to spend time reading it but would recommend it for the importance of us seeking to avoid a reality that could become our world if we cease to love."The success of love is in the loving; it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done".Mother Teresa
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Guest More than 1 year ago
it gives you a new perspective on cars and sexuality, but the novel becomes repetitive as ballard finds new ways to drescribe the perverse sexuality featured in this book (a fund of wonderful adjectives, similes and metaphors!) gets interesting at the end - i'd suggest it for a change of pace