J.G. Ballard’s ‘Crash’ – Review

I was around fourteen years of age when I first came into contact with J.G. Ballard. My copy of Crash was then fresh and unturned, but now sits appropriately battered beside me. The spine cracked and the pages stained with wine. You could certainly say that it is loved.

The very mention of the title is enough to make complete strangers look upon you as though you had killed their lover in a head on collision but fail to be excited by the prospect that something unusual is happening internally. Ballard himself once had the novel rejected by a publisher who added that the author is beyond any form of psychiatric help and so must, under no circumstances be published. Thank somebody that it did.

Those who have never read Crash, but have heard of it, tend to be the most vocal about what lies within the content. It is a highly sexualised novel with consistently disturbing descriptions throughout which slice open the human condition with a scalpel to glance at the effect that media saturation has on the mind and the body.

We live in a world were violent images are far more easily accessible than they once were, in particular, Ballard wrote the novel when home video entertainment was relatively new and never before were people able to see graphic material from the comfort of their armchairs.  Crash successfully demonstrates how being bombarded with images alters the way in which we view them due to the constant repetition of descriptions of ‘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.’

These descriptions are disturbing at first, but sooner or later, as you continue to read the novel, you will start to feel something incredibly odd and disturbing happening within you as the reader. You become desensitised in very much the same way the news reels soon lose their effect as members of the public are often heard to show the disinterest in stories that have been running for over a week. Ballard shows our very need for fresh sensations by using the extreme situation of the car crash.

J.G. Ballard’s narrator, also named Ballard is shown to be disconnected, as do all of the characters, from the world around him. He and his wife, Catherine, are only able to achieve orgasm by informing each other about their affairs as their own bodies have already been explored, and thus seize to arouse any interest whatsoever. It is only after a car crash, were Ballard collides head on with the car of Dr Helen Remmington and catapulting the body of her husband through the windscreen and ending his life. These events spark a sensation and trigger a series of events where Remmington and Ballard begin to explore these new drives that they now have, awakened by the contact and near death experience.

They join other alienated car crash victims lead by Robert Vaughn, a former TV science scientist who carries an almanac of wounded individuals whose very lives are now changed forever.

The exploration of the human condition runs throughout this book, and it is incredibly easy to take the content for its literal content, however it is much more than a novel about sex and car crashes, it is a novel of endless possibilities all represented within chaos and alienation.

A truly masterful piece of writing that should defiantly be given a chance before jumping to conclusions.

 

A Wolf in Fool’s Clothing – A careful look into the nation’s favourite buffoon Boris Johnson

boris5MOS1005_468x335

By Anthony Rodden

Blatant buffoonery and Boris Johnson seem to go hand in hand. Mayor Johnson is never one to fail in tickling the ribs of the nation. There is the time when he got caught with his trousers up when he was stuck dangling on a zip wire during the Olympic celebration in London back in 2012.

Whether he’s shouting ‘Wiff-waff’, chasing after a group of attackers calling ‘Oiks’, or slipping in a river during an anti-litter publicity stunt, Boris manages to entertain the nation to no end.

A regular on News Night, Boris Johnson was once asked by Jeremy Paxman, ‘What’s the difference between you and David Cameron?’

To which Johnson replied in his usual mumbled and bumbled style claiming ‘I’m older than him, considerable heavier, erm, what else? I beat him at tennis the other day.’

Boris Johnson has, on repeat occasion, deflected serious discussion by breaking into what can only be regarded as a sheer display of idiocy that has raised him to the illustrious title of a house hold name.

There seems to be no corner of popular culture that Boris has not seeped into to. Russell Howard’s Good News has transformed Boris into a popular sound bite in the form of ‘Very nice!’ and the papers affectionately calling him ‘Bo-Jo’.

It should come of no surprise either that Boris Johnson has appeared frequently on Have I Got News for You, in fact he has appeared a number of seven times in total and even got him nominated for a BAFTA for his performance on the show back in 2003. As Have I Got News for You is a satirical news quiz show it is unsurprising that Boris has made a number of appearances on the show and faced strong criticism from witty satirist, and  editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop.

With all of these moments to cherish it is easy to overlook some of the more unpleasant truths about the Mayer of London.

During his student says at Oxford University, Johnson was a member of the notorious and exclusive, Bullingdon Club.

The Bullingdon Club is no stranger to controversy and on one evening in June 1987, a member of the club, which the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, took part in their annual tradition and threw a plant pot through the window of a restaurant.

The suspect is still unknown; however, it was reported by a witness who saw a man ‘with a shock of white blonde hair’ threw the plant pot.

Boris Johnson also failed to answer questioning from News Night’s Jeremy Paxman regarding David Cameron’s potential involvement in the act of criminal damage.

Johnson was reported to have spent a night in a police cell following the incident after being pursued by police in the botanical gardens and has in fact taken a degree of pride to the incident and recounted the story to others. Friends of Boris Johnson, however, have a different take on the events and claim that Johnson scrambled through hedges on his hands and knees in the manner of a sniffling coward.

London’s mayor shrugs those days off and claims that all university students act in this way. It can be argued that these are all just displays of harmless tomfoolery (despite the damage inflicted to a local business) and that it should be viewed with the old Oxford belief that ‘boys will be boys.’

Boys however, become men and what a rather powerful and influential man Boris has become.

Back in October 2012, Boris Johnson ran a petition in The Independent which was heralded as a tremendous step towards equality in Great Britain when he called for support in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Johnson opens with

‘I have been asked to say something more in favour of gay marriage – and I do so gladly, because frankly I can’t see what the fuss is about.’ Adding ‘A couple of years ago someone asked whether I supported the idea and I was a bit flummoxed, because I thought it was already legal.’

I am no way disputing that Boris’ petition is in any way the focus of my attention as any act that serves to bring about positive change and equality ought to be respected and supported. I do, however, call into question the sincerity of Johnson’s actions.

It can be argued that looking at the choice of phrasing, namely, ‘I have been asked to say something more in favour of gay marriage’ is reading too much into the matter but you can make up your own minds about the possible meanings of this statement. What can be held to account is Boris’ fictitious ignorance of believing that it was already legal, and the fact that in his view ‘can’t see what the fuss is about.’

I draw your attention to Boris Johnson’s 2001 publication Friends, Voters, Countrymen, in which Johnson comments on gay marriage stating

‘If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.’

These are not the words of a man who sincerely believes that can’t see what the fuss is about. They clearly demonstrate deep-seated views regarding homosexuals and even goes as far to suggest that not only will it result, ‘in principle’, with polygamy and more shocking still, the idea that same-sex couples are on the level of beasts.

Boris has since apologised for these statements and has taken a complete U-turn it seems. Perhaps Boris truly has changed his mind on the whole issue?

The truth is Boris Johnson frequently makes a number of outrageous remarks, such as referring to black people as having ‘Watermelon smiles’, referring to the super-rich as a ‘put upon minority’, or accusing the people of Liverpool of displaying ‘disproportionate’ grief  over the execution of Kenneth Bigley who was be-headed in Iraq back in 2004. Every time he comes out with these sorts of remarks the dwindling apologies follow. Forgive Boris if you wish, but it would be frivolous to forget them.

But that was then, you might argue, and rightly so.

January 9th 2014 saw Boris close down ten of London’s fire stations, meaning that 552 firefighters have lost their job doing a service that they ought to take pride in. Not only will these people be unable to provide for their families, the people of London are quite literally at risk due to these closures that have been put in place to save money.

This has been the whole point of this article. It is all well and good-looking at Boris make a prat of himself and rolling over with laughter, but it clearly detracts from the fact that Johnson is an incredibly dangerous and callous man who is quite literally putting people’s lives at risk. There is often talk of him becoming Prime Minister and figures show that this is a popular view, however, you need not look too far to find that he is not, in his words, ‘very nice.’