J.G. Ballard

Recently re-released in an annotated edition by Re/Search, J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition is a seminal work in industrial culture. Various social icons— Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor— are intersticed throughout the non-linear, almost Joycean plot with images of death, nuclear warfare, deformity, and carnage. Similar themes would later be used by industrial artists and musicians; few if any have ever matched Ballard's stylistic elegance and the sheer beauty of his language. The Atrocity Exhibition was a great influence on Genesis P-Orridge, among others, and is highly recommended.

Throughout his writing career, Ballard has created a modern aesthetic of horror. His monsters are the tools we depend on in our technological society, our post-industrial cultural mores, the images we ignore even as we internalize them. A man stranded on a highway divider is unable to cross the busy street and survives on garbage tossed out by passing cars (Concrete Island). An apartment complex becomes a behavioral sink as its residents descend into savagery (High Rise). Automobile accidents are used for sexual games (Crash). Ballard's world is a place where the primitive and the modern meet, where we sink into the depths even as we ascend to the heights. It's a violent and sexy and grimly beautiful place... a place which will seem like home to anyone familiar with industrial culture.

Interestingly enough, he was also the author of the autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, which was turned into the Spielberg blockbuster of the same name.

Recommended Reading:

Commentary by Kevin Filan, Monday, June 1, 1998.

Photo: Rachel / Models: Kerry, John