Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Neuromancer and Atrocity Exhibition
But I learned this when I asked Stephanie, who is a museum intern and tour guide at the cemetery with me these days, "Is your boyfriend reading J. G. Ballard?"
"Yes!" she said, "Neuromancer!" Then we had a conversation about Atrocity Exhibition, by J. G. Ballard.
So we are both a bit confused. (I'm sure Stephanie's boyfriend will set us straight. Or set me straight, the next time he is in Babbitt's.)
Anyway, Neuromancer won the 3 biggies of science fiction, the Nebula Award, the Phillip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. I'm sure it's a wonderful novel.
But as I continue in The Common Review, I am reading "Like Pain to a Knife: Reading J. G. Ballard's Fiction," by Paul Youngquist. I have got to read some Ballard, as we both grew up during the violence of the 60s (race troubles, assassinations, war), having our childhood innocence spattered with civil blood, even as we continued on in a fairly sheltered existence. As the violence, and its commercialization and regularity continued, the world changed around us, like a shattered windshield nobody ever fixed.
As Paul Youngquist explains it, Ballard went ahead and turned the psyche inside out in his fiction, since all that supposedly repressed stuff was clearly out there already. And Youngquist himself could identify with that. He says, "It's not me who needs a shrink. It's the world."
I love the boldness of that. Yes, the world is screwed up. If you have a bit of borderline depression or generalized anxiety disorder, and Youngquist says he does, isn't that the most appropriate reaction to a world in which human life is valued very little, violence is commonplace, and no one really wants to fix things?
Oh...yes, that's always been the dark side of reality.
And the world could get blown up in a moment? We have nuclear war.