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The Atrocity Exhibition

The Atrocity Exhibition is a novel, or a series of short but connected stories, depending on how you decide to come at it. Traven/Travis/Tallis/etc. appears as one man, moving through different evolutionary experiments, physical and psychological. He is experimenting with his psyche, as Ballard experiments with storytelling and writing. Chapter headings like "The University of Death," "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown" and "You and Me and the Continuum" give an idea towards the scope of the characters' inner and outer explorations. The experimental sexual interactions, recurring alternate deaths and celebrity obsessions are from lists produced by Ballard using free assocation. Glimpses of themes of many of his later works can be found in this text.

Special features of the Re/Search revised edition includes an introduction by William S. Burroughs, new notes and comments from Ballard, and four additional short stories. Notes and commentary from Ballard himself run in the margins alongside the text to which they are related. The collection of medical illustrations by Phoebe Gloeckner is impressive. Often overlooked are the excellent black and white urban images, photographed by Ana Barrado. Her pictures are purposefully "Ballardesque," showing abandoned parking lots, beaches and launch sites.

"Violence is the key. The irrational, all-pervading violence of the modern world is the subject of this hauntingly powerful novel. The central character's dreams are haunted by the images of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, dead astronauts and motor-crash victims as he traverses the screaming wastes of nervous breakdown. Seeking his sanity, he casts himself in a number of roles: H-bomber pilot, presidential assassin, crash victim, psychopath. Finally, through the black, perverse magic of violence he transcends his psychic turmoils to find the key to a bizarre new sexuality..."

  • comments from the back cover of Triad/Panther 1979 edition


Nelson Doubleday supposedly ordered the first print run of ATROCITY EXHIBITION destroyed after reading the story "Why I Want To F*^& Ronald Regan."

Ballard's Futures Imperfect
j.g. ballard

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j.g. ballard