Crash by J.G. Ballard

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Society often associates the visual appearance with a particular identity within the real world, utilizing persistence of vision to mentally link a series of images to form a whole. The fragmented collage of Crash distorts the linearity of a steady narrative, as J.G. Ballard constantly explores alternative tempos, speeding up and slowing down episodes within Vaughan and Ballard’s lives to create a new reality within the science fiction genre. Rather than exploring outer space or the distant future, Ballard chooses to explore the familiar environment of near-distant futuristic London in which the subconscious desires of the characters are externalized through a technological fusion that creates an entirely new plane of reality. Ballard himself believes that we live in a fictional world, and it is his job as a science fiction writer to create a reality within a text. Crash transforms the familiar urban landscape into a world in which the only way to escape the fictional confines of society is through desires and experimentation. The various sexual incidents that occur become increasingly real for Vaughan and Ballard, with the women becoming less vital in the men’s equation for pleasure, and instead focusing on the sensuality of the automobile. For these characters, the real world is no longer enough, and the unexplored avenues of the inner psyche serve as a plane of subconscious exploration that is paralleled in Ballard’s fragmented and psychological writing style.

As a science fiction new wave writer, Ballard presents a world that is extraordinarily realistic as well as extraordinarily stylized. He stresses the production quality and processed environment that seeps into this culture through technology and media. Unlike some science fiction writers, Ballard does not use an abundance of neologisms to compose Crash, but rather creates unfamiliar images using familiar words and objects. Literally using preexisting terminology: Her body formed an awkward geometry with the windshield pillars and the angle of the steering column, almost as if she were consciously mimicking the postures of the crippled young woman” Ballard fuses the realistic elements of humans and cars to create a highly stylized and unnerving image. (Ballard 121) The new wave style addresses the idea and practice of “looking” at art, recognizing it as an operative action for the artist, spectator, and characters within. This idea of the new mode of observation differs from previous, more restricted perspectives, which were generally subjective and did not lend the spectator to a freedom in exploring the material. In this example from Crash, Ballard allows the reader to progressively look at the words on the page, look through the “windshield” described in the scene, and at the image itself, substantiating the pictorial quality of the new wave. Vaughan’s character is centered on this idea of “looking” with his obsession of participating in and observing not only car crashes, but the post-accident scenes that transform into works of art in Vaughan’s eyes.

The visual concentration of Crash as a New Wave work lends itself to a manipulation of literary form itself to create a reflexive commentary on geometry and patterns within the text. The multiplicity of the visual options in the New Wave style generally focuses on three central observers as stated before: the artist (writer, filmmaker, painter), the spectator or reader, and the characters involved in the work. By illustrating highly stylized and detailed accounts of Vaughan’s desired scenarios, Ballard allows the reader to see through Vaughan’s eyes, adding a layer of vision to the novel’s composition of images. One scene describes an elaborate questionnaire that Vaughan created, presenting multiple scenarios for possible car crashes, including person, vehicle, place, and types of injuries. This sentence becomes a thought and sequence in and of itself as he begins: Almost every conceivable...
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