6th Discussion: J. G. Ballard’s Crash (18 Feb 2010)

The discussion opens with Timmy and Aaron vehemently disliking the book while Isaac defending it, arguing that it has historical value; the novel was written in a time when automobiles were fetishized.

Characters

1. James Ballard: Two questions remain unresolved regarding the character, James Ballard: Why is James the top when Vaughan is clearly the leader? And why does the author use his name for this character? Aaron argues that the author clearly cannot envision his namesake being a bottom and his namesake can only have (homo)sex only on the brink of death as if homosexuality is the limit of human sexuality—a lot of heterosexual masculine pride (homphobia?) at work here—although Timmy and Isaac claim that top/bottom is merely a power play.

Aaron notes the amazing olfactory organ of the narrator as he can even smell his wife’s “rectal mucus.” Isaac says, “After a long day at work, maybe there is a musky smell.” The point of bringing up the narrator’s super ability to sniff his wife’s muff is that the solipsistic projection of the first-person narrator makes him a horrible person, disregarding the feelings of others, including his wife.

2. Vaughan: Timmy points out that Vaughan uses his charisma to manipulate. Isaac notes that he is a messiah, “like Jesus walking out of a car wreak.” (Isaac goes on to list the commonality of Crash with Ballard’s other work: a cult-like following, a messiah, and sex.) Aaron says that it is unclear how Vaughan looks like, sometimes a “handsome actor,” “with pockmarked and scarred face” although Isaac claims that the same person may be viewed differently at different times, depending on our emotions for the person. Aaron further notes the voyeuristic description on Vaughan’s body and Isaac deciphers that Vaughan’s body is an extension of the vehicle: hard buttocks and metallic sheen to his skin.

3. Seagrave: Crash and burn.

4. Catherine, Vera, Helen and Gabriella: The failure of the writer is his inability to tackle the psychology of women; they are either dutiful wives or aggressive whores. (Theme: Gender/Women)

Themes

5. Lesbianism: Examining a passage where the narrator observes his wife looking at a nurse, we see that the narrator is projecting his fantasy of two women making out. Ignorant prick.

6. Male Homosexuality: Aaron argues that for all the liberalism and queerness and perversity of the novel, the author could not imagine how men have sex with men. When James thinks of sodomizing Vaughan, the fantasy is often mediated through a third party, usually a woman or machine. When in the end the act is carried out, James has to think of Vaughan as a trans-sexual with a failed operation. Aaron wonders how radical the novel is, and whether the author is a homophobe.

7. Sexuality: Other aspects of sexuality includes fantasizing incestuous acts with his mother (p. 180) and his wife becoming his sister (p. 217). Aaron concludes that we couldn’t make more out of this because the author was high on LSD when he wrote it.

8. Technology: Timmy says that the novel is born out of paranoia of technology while Aaron claims that it is a fetishization of it, reminding Aaron of www.guyswithiphones.com, a site which boys pose with their toys. Isaac further enhances the argument by saying that the characteristics of technology are transferred to the owners. For example, if iphones signify coolness—do the youth still use “cool”?—then the person who owns it is seen as cool.

9. Death: obviously links with sexuality and life (signified by semen). Isaac thinks that the novel romanticizes death as the ultimate pleasure while Aaron picks on the irony that once you’re dead, there can be no more pleasure. Dead men have no sex.

Style

10. The in-depth description of EVERYTHING (except for the gay sex) is frustrating to both Aaron and Timmy although Isaac notes the style parallels the obsessive nature of the narrator.

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Filed under J. G. Ballard, Queer, S/M, UK, USA

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