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1001 Book Review: Crash J G Ballard

Crash

Crash by J.G. Ballard
First Published: 1973
Joint review: Jen & Book Worm

Synopsis: When Ballard, our narrator, smashes his car into another and watches the driver die, 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 auto-erotic 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.

Jen’s Review:

Rating: ★
Crash is a story of the narrator’s obsession with car crashes and sex. After almost being killed himself in a wreck, he becomes sexually obsessed with cars and, in particular, car crashes. Pictures of car crash victims are like the best porn in the world for this narrator. In the 1001 reference book it says, “the first pornographic book dominated by twentieth-century technology.”

What can I say about this book? It’s disgusting and I pretty much hated every minute of it. I wish I could have appreciated elements that others have pointed out (the impact of modern day technology on human emotions and sexuality), but I was so disgusted throughout that the only thing I could think about was finishing the book.

The writing style was interesting, at least for the few bits in between the graphic pornography. In fact, if not for the writing style, I would have given it zero stars. The content was repulsive. Lots of vivid descriptions of car crash scenes and a lot of bodily fluid detail. I am pretty sure the most common word in the book was semen. I generally don’t like very graphically sexual novels, but even those I can tolerate. It was the juxtaposition of graphic sex with violence and car crash imagery that made me want to vomit. I skimmed much of it and my husband kept asking me what was wrong because I apparently had a look of smelling poo the whole time I was reading it.

It amazingly gets a 3.6 rating on Goodreads so apparently lots of people out there think it’s okay. It’s hard for me to even begin to comment on the types of readers who would find this book appealing — those with car crash fetishes? Seriously, I’d check out the Goodreads review page to read reviews by people who liked it. You have to have a strong stomach and high tolerance for graphic sex and violence.

This was my first experience with Ballard’s work and it makes me never want to pick up another one of his books.

Want a flavor of the book? Here’s a relatively tame quote:

“This pool of vomit with its clots of blood like liquid rubies, as viscous and discreet as everything produced by Catherine, still contains for me the essence of the erotic delirium of the car-crash, more exciting than her own rectal and vaginal mucus, as refined as the excrement of a fairy queen, or the minuscule globes of liquid that formed beside the bubbles of her contact lenses.”

And because I hated it so much, here are five things I like more than this book:

  1. Snow – I live in MA and normally like snow, but we’re almost completely snowed in and it keeps coming. I’d prefer 10 more snow storms over the prospect of reading Crash again.
  2. People who drive at 20 mph in the passing lane
  3. Nicholas Sparks. I’d rather read all his books 20 times over than read Crash one more time
  4. Watching people eat bugs on Survivor/Fear Factor/etc. I have a bad gag reflex and hate watching anything where people eat gross things. But i’d rather watch a 24-hour marathon of fear factor than read Crash.
  5. Cleaning my cat’s litter box. I’d clean out a million boxes just to be able to get the imagery from this book out of my head.

Book Worm’s Review:
Rating: 
Firstly I will say if I had picked up the book and read the back cover in a bookstore or library, I would have put it back down and walked slowly away. It’s only the fact that it is a 1001 book and I am competitive that made me force myself through all 185 pages of this sick novel.

The book is basically about a man, Ballard, who is involved in a horrible car crash in which he kills another man and, instead of reacting like a normal human being and finding himself repulsed with what has happened and fearful to drive, he instead becomes obsessed with the sexual feeling aroused in him by the crash.

Ballard meets Vaughan another man obsessed by sex, car crashes and filming both from this point on the book is nearly all graphically and vulgarly described sex, crash injuries, sexual feelings aroused by crashes, and in depth descriptions of injuries, especially those involving sexual organs.

All I can say is I wish that both Ballard and Vaughan had died in their first car crashes and saved me the bother of having to read and review this utter rubbish.

I worry about the publishers who published this and the people who decided it should be on the 1001 list, if that makes me old fashioned and unopen to new ideas then I am happy to live with those labels.

I would also add that if you are going to read a book by J G Ballard make it anything but this, personally I would highly recommend Empire of the Sun.

Don’t believe us? Try it out for yourself. You can buy it here: Crash: A Novel

And for those who want the visual, you can check out the movie by… (surprise, surprise) David Cronenberg.

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