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J.G. Ballard’s chaotic narrative style in The Atrocity Exhibition was initially, for me, unfavorable. The chapters, made up of individually titled paragraphs, can be read both chronologically or out of order, although they make slightly more sense when read in the order they are given. But, because Ballard is critiquing man’s modern relation with his landscape, it makes sense to have a disruptive style take over. This mass media landscape, which Ballard depicts, feeds the fixation of celebrities, even after their death. Marilyn Monroe’s corpse is alive in Atrocity Exhibition as the disfigured woman in the white dress with radiation burns, and, as was brought up in lecture, celebrity images are inflated to superhuman proportions in billboards. Celebrity deaths in cars, such as those of James Dean and Miss Mansfield, lead to a strange switch in roles, after Ballard’s personal obsession. Ballard understands one riding in their car as a symbol that’s key in understanding the 20th century; the car, Ballard states, is relevant to modern violence, power, speed, advertising, drama, among other things. However, Ballard extends his notions for a change in perception of car crashes, as they “redefine the elements of space and time” and “[liberate] sexual energy – mediating the sexuality of those who have died with an intensity impossible in any other form”. As intelligent as his argument is, I can’t accept the idea of car crashes being sexy. Yet, I can’t help ignore looking over at an accident on the freeway, or deny the curiosity of seeing a corpse. After presenting these contradictions, Ballard’s voice becomes harder to disregard. As much as one likes to consider themselves different, or one who doesn’t flow with the rest, social stigmas persist, and, most of the times, we are part of them. This obsession with celebrities, musicians, artists, and or power, violence, speed, intensity, which is recognized among ourselves, the reader, a participant in society, is set up in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition, and it frighteningly speaks its message, especially through its form.

-Stefania Hernandez

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