- Crash (J. G. Ballard novel)
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author(s) J. G. Ballard Country United Kingdom Language English Genre(s) Novel, Transgressive fiction Publisher Jonathan Cape Publication date June 1973 Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback) ISBN 0-224-00782-3 OCLC Number 797233 Dewey Decimal 823/.9/14 LC Classification PZ4.B1893 Cp PR6052.A46 Preceded by The Atrocity Exhibition Followed by Concrete Island
Crash is a novel by English author J. G. Ballard, first published in 1973. It is a story about symphorophilia or car-crash sexual fetishism: its protagonists become sexually aroused by staging and participating in real car-crashes. The novel was written in a highly sensationalized manner.
It was a highly controversial novel: famously one publisher's reader returned the verdict "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!" The novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1996 by David Cronenberg. An earlier, apparently unauthorized adaptation called Nightmare Angel was filmed in 1986 by Susan Emerling and Zoe Beloff. This short film bears the credit "Inspired by J.G. Ballard." 
The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a “former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways”. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls "a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology". Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor.
The book explores themes such as the transformation of human psychology by modern technology, and consumer culture's fascination with celebrities and technological commodities. The human characters in the novel are cold and passionless, unable to become sexually excited unless some kind of technology is involved (typically architecture and cars). The gruesome damage inflicted on car-crash victims is not seen as shocking, but as the liberation of new sexual possibilities that have yet to be explored, such as in one scene where a man and a woman have sex in a car that was involved in an accident, but rather than have vaginal sex, he penetrates a wound on her thigh that she received in the crash.
Finally, the book asks why we, as an enlightened society, accept such a “perverse technology” – that kills a vast number of people yearly – as such an integral part of our culture.
Ballard writes in the foreword: “Do we see, in the car-crash, the portents of a nightmare marriage between technology, and our own sexuality? … Is there some deviant logic unfolding here, more powerful than that provided by reason?”
- “After having … been constantly bombarded by road-safety propaganda, it was almost a relief to find myself in a real accident.”
- “Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised an endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions: The lungs of elderly men punctured by door-handles; the chests of young women impaled on steering-columns; the cheek of handsome youths torn on the chromium latches of quarter-lights. To Vaughan, these wounds formed the key to a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology. The images of these wounds hung in the gallery of his mind, like exhibits in the museum of a slaughterhouse.”
- "The crushed body of the sportscar had turned her into a being of free and perverse sexuality, releasing within its dying chromium and leaking engine-parts, all the deviant possibilities of her sex."
- Ballard (as author) talking about his reasons for writing the book: "I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror."
References in popular music
- The Normal's 1978 song "Warm Leatherette" was inspired by the novel.
- Both the novel and "Warm Leatherette" have been acknowledged as influences on John Foxx's 1980 album Metamatic, which features titles such as "Underpass" and "No-One Driving".
- The Creatures 1983 song "Miss The Girl" is directly inspired by the novel.
- The Manic Street Preachers' song "Mausoleum" from 1994's The Holy Bible contains the famous Ballard quote about his reasons for writing the book.
- Tuxedomoon's instrumental "Crash!" was inspired by the novel.
- ^ Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom, trans. John Irons (London: Reaktion Books, 2005), 82.
- ^ Taylor, Brett (Oct/Nov 2009). "The Forgotten Crash: Nightmare Angel". Video Watchdog (152): 12–16.
Digested Plot from the guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/22/crash-jg-ballard-digested-classic
Works by J. G. Ballard Novels:
The Wind From Nowhere (1961) • The Drowned World (1962) • The Burning World (1964) • The Crystal World (1966) • The Atrocity Exhibition (1969) • Crash (1973) • Concrete Island (1974) • High Rise (1975) • The Unlimited Dream Company (1979) • Hello America (1981) • Empire of the Sun (1984) • The Day of Creation (1987) • Running Wild (1988) • The Kindness of Women (1991) • Rushing to Paradise (1994) • Cocaine Nights (1996) • Super-Cannes (2000) • Millennium People (2003) • Kingdom Come (2006)
"Mobile" (1957) • "Track 12" (1958) • "Zone of Terror" (1960) • "The Sound-Sweep" (1960) • "The Voices of Time" (1960) • "Studio 5, The Stars" (1961) • "Deep End" (1961) • "Mr F. is Mr F." (1961) • "Billennium" (1962) • "Minus One" (1963) • "The Recognition" (1967) • " The Day of Forever" (1967) • "The Concentration City" (1967) • "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan" (1968) "Venus Smiles" (1971) •
The Voices of Time and Other Stories (1962) • Billennium (1962) • Passport to Eternity (1963) • The Four-Dimensional Nightmare (1963) • The Terminal Beach (1964) • The Impossible Man (1966) • The Overloaded Man (1967) • The Disaster Area (1967) • The Day of Forever (1967) • Vermilion Sands (1971) • Chronopolis and Other Stories (1971) • Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories (1976) • The Best of J. G. Ballard (1977) • The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard (1978) • The Venus Hunters (1980) • Myths of the Near Future (1982) • The Voices of Time (1985) • Memories of the Space Age (1988) • War Fever (1990) • The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard: Volume 1 (2006) The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard: Volume 2 (2006)
Essays and reviews Autobiography
Miracles of Life (2008)
Film adaptations & work
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