Crash, Ballard’s most controversial and second most famous book, explores the idea that there is ‘a strong connection between sexuality and the car crash, a fusion largely driven by the cult of celebrity’: just think of James Dean, Grace Kelly, Mark Bolan, President Kennedy (‘a special kind of car crash’) or Princess Diana. In 1970, shortly before he began writing the novel, Ballard decided to ‘test my hypothesis about the unconscious links between sex and the car crash by putting on an exhibition of crashed cars’. On the opening night ‘there was a huge tension in the air, as if everyone felt threatened by some inner alarm that had started to ring.’ People got drunk and behaved badly, and over the following weeks further acts of vandalism were inflicted on the exhibits. Ballard’s ‘suspicions had been confirmed about the unconscious links that my novel would explore’. The hostile responses that the book provoked when it was published, and which David Cronenberg’s film version reanimated 25 years later, are on this view further evidence of its deep ‘psychological and emotional truth’. The only possible explanation for such fiercely negative reactions, Ballard says, is denial: it’s the classic Freudian ‘no means yes’ defence.
Though here at TimesOnline he’s being lauded for divulging more into his life rather than writing, review at LRB seems more concerned about his writing. Main thing they all are talking about is how much of his own life is there in his books, mainly Empire of the Sun. Also how much human warmth and contradictions this dystopian fiction writer had in his relationships with people around.