Applied Ballardianism: Satire & Parody

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How many people remember the great parodies of late modernism? I’m thinking of both Hermann Hesse’s Das Glasperlienspiel (or, Magister Ludi: The Glass-Bead Game), Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, or work from Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, or even Jorge-Luis Borges. I remember both Hesse’s and Mann’s pseudo-biographies of fictional figures of their times were written and introduced by academic bores and pedants. Both men in their exchanged letters to each other even admitted the comic and parodic element in both fictions which many scholars even to this day take seriously rather than as comic satires on the state of knowledge and culture of their respective eras.

A new online work by Simon Sellars of Ballardian fame, which I assume will eventually be a published work in book form is coming to fruition that seems to fit that same gambit for our own time in comic relief and scholarly pastiche and parody; or, if not, then a work in process published on Applied Ballardianism. Simon Sellars is well known for his Ballardian site which gave us up to date interviews, critiques, exposes, fiction, and news, etc. on the late J.G. Ballard. The new site seems to take it a step further by presenting a pseudo-scholarly work and theory on Ballard in a fictionalize form and space of imaginal possibility.

In the section of the site under About we are introduced to a strange figure in the personage of a man (whose anonymity remains, his name is never disclosed) one who as the pseudo-scholar Dr Ricardo Battista, School of Specialisation in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Hartwell University, Melbourne, Australia tells us left a work on J.G. Ballard named: Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing.

The said Dr Ricardo Battista as academic bore presents the figure of the anonymous theoretician as a mad man, an apophenic-schizophrenic whose ruminations in the first-person singular seem more like the conspiracist ravings of a fringe lunatic. As Battista describes it “‘Apophenia’, broadly speaking, describes a schizotypal cognitive condition—the mental state of perceiving patterns in meaningless, random and unrelated data. William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition brought apophenia to public attention.” The man who is never named once worked for the Dr as a research assistant. It was at that time he began to notice the subject’s – as he terms him – peculiarities,

For our subject, apophenia, filtered through his Ballardian lens, coloured his worldview so completely that he begin to perceive a paranormal element to Ballard’s work—the sense that the work was a conduit to other dimensions. He fell into the precise hell of the self-aware paranoiac, simultaneously ‘within’ and ‘without’ his inverted reality. He believed conspiracy theory to be the ‘people’s novel’—a chance for ordinary citizens to construct a fiction that opposed the dominant narratives of media, culture and politics.

Our interlocutor condemns at every turn the man’s writings, life, and work exposing his strange behavior and almost criminal fall into paranoia as he vanishes from at first the University, then his job at a local factory, then his wanderings that lead him to Australia’s outback. All that is left is the desultory task for the Dr to publish the work at hand because he alone was given the tedious task to executor of the man’s will. If not for this he’d of disowned the whole thing. As he says, snidely: “Our subject fancies himself a philosopher, yet his insight is too superficial and reckless to justify that stance. Thus, when his argument falls away, he reverts to first-person anecdotes out of a crippling sense of inadequacy and the document becomes a pathetic memoir again, yet it doesn’t work on that level either, being too self-indulgent and too larded with self-pity, even allowing for the excesses of that genre, to have any kind of literary merit.” So much so that his final words tell us:

While I highly doubt this book will be read by a great many people or that the ideas within it will be taken seriously by anyone working in Ballard Studies (given how cringeworthy and repellent the first-person material is, like the confessions of an imbecile, and how unscholarly and deranged the apophenic-paranormal elements are), with these final words I complete my obligation as the subject’s last academic employer, as decreed by his will, and beg my colleagues’ forgiveness for appearing within these pages.

May God have mercy on my soul.

The rest of the posts are snippets and fragments from the fictional theoretical work of the anonymous author. Under the first entry we see an encyclopedic list of influence machines moving from Ballard and William Gibson (SciFi) and ending in the Borges flowing through the said author. In Purple Light we see the young psychonaut wandering through Dubai “flattened under glass, observing this unborn dead city,” already in fusion between landscape and the mental states of some surreal mutation. One moves from there to a travelogue of entries that submerge the mind of the traveler in a world where the Ballardian flux and the Real seem to waver into each other, where one is never sure where the one ends and the other begins. Photographs from these travelgrams permeate each page in the cycle like amphibious beasts scuttling across the website revealing nothing so much as ‘nothing’ in particular. One is never sure if the image is image or a flash card for a new form of psychological warfare bringing with it new and vivid reminders of our ruinous age.

In the final installment, or the latest one? —we meet a paranoid tripster who enters the author’s life, a nurse masked bandit of psychic traumas. Our author, who seems in this place to be in Melbourne, Australia awakens from his strange journey like a fragmented Picasso painting, his “face was a bloody mess. My nose had been smashed to the side like a Picasso painting, my left ear was sliced almost in two and the lower half of my upper front teeth had sheared away.”

Like our own fragmented lives we are pitched into this tome without support or anchor, wandering through vignettes of a life that may or may not resemble actuality, but are assured to fit the world of our dark wastelands across a global disaster zone that has yet to find its apocalyptic finish. In the end maybe there is no end, only the fragments of a journey without beginning or end, a clock-work periodical of theory-fictions that dribble out of the madness of our age, encyclicals to the dementia and paranoia of our apophatic times.


One can find more on the new site: http://www.appliedballardianism.com/

 

J.G. Ballard: The Carnival of Time

Who will ever forget the opening lines of that early story by J.G. Ballard Prima Belladonna that introduces almost as if by slight-of-hand the notion of an economic slump, a moment when civilization forgave itself of its excesses: its capitalist puritanism and work ethic, and decided to take a vacation for ten years between two regimes of the Symbolic Order? Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World (1965) likens the carnivalesque in literature to the type of activity that often takes place in the carnivals of popular culture. In the carnival, as we have seen, social hierarchies of everyday life—their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths—are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus, fools become wise, kings become beggars; opposites are mingled (fact and fantasy, heaven and hell). It is not to be construed that the liberation from all authority and sacred symbols is an ideology to be believed and held as a creed. Carnival extracts all individuals from noncarnival life, noncarnival states, because there are no hierarchical positions during carnival there cannot be ideologies for the mind of individuals to manifest.

J.G. Ballard in his early stories will mention the Great Recess as a sort of carnivalesque time-between-times, when the age of one Symbolic Order has come to a close, decayed and shriven of its ideological and religious/secular trappings, as well as its economic capacities and powers of domination and control, and opened a hole in the chrontopian landscape of historical time: a sort of infinite present wherein the world no longer bound to the time of work is set adrift in a timeless realm of lazy days of beach-comber vacancy and playfulness.

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J.G. Ballard: Chronopolis – Time Cities and the Lost Future

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Continuing from where I left off J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society.

Ballard in his short story Chronopolis will envision a world where Time as Clock-time has been outlawed. In this short story he takes us through the history of one particular Time-City, Chronopolis where every facet of peoples existence was ruled by time and its measurements. We first meet Conrad Newman in the free worlds beyond the great and ruinous Time City, who is awaiting trial for his criminal heresies: he has brought the great central clock, the symbol of absolute regulatory control back online.

We discover from a friend of his Stacey that

‘Thirty million people once lived in this city,’ Stacey remarked. ‘Now the population is little more than two, and still declining. Those of us left hang on in what were once the distal suburbs, so that the city today is effectively an enormous ring, five miles in width, encircling a vast dead centre forty or fifty miles in diameter.’1

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J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society

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For the first time Man will be living a full twenty-four hour day, not spending a third of it as an invalid, snoring his way through an eight-hour peepshow of infantile erotica.

– J.G. Ballard – Manhole 69

Continuing the line of thought I began in Nick Land: Chronogenesis & Urbanomy we discover in J.G. Ballard’s short story Manhole 69 he will envision a world where humans no longer sleep and the future is set adrift. One of the scientists who is part of an advanced exploratory team in this new world of sleeplessness, speaking to his team members says:

‘None of you realize it yet, but this is as big an advance as the step the first ichthyoid took out of the protozoic sea 300 million years ago. At last we’ve freed the mind, raised it out of that archaic sump called sleep, its nightly retreat into the medulla. With virtually one cut of the scalpel we’ve added twenty years to those men’s lives.’ (Ballard, p. 51)

When we think of Sleep we think of its porous, and suffused in-flows between waking, night and the dreamlands or nightmares we succumb to in its dark internal worlds; and, opposing this is its light twin whose departures into activity, daylight, and work send us back to the pain of our daily lives in consciousness. Sleep is the recurrence in our lives of a waiting, of a pause, a break in the temporal flow of our timebound lives in consciousness. It affirms the necessity of postponement, and the deferred retrieval or recommencement of whatever has been postponed. Sleep is a remission, a release from the “constant continuity” of all the threads in which one is enmeshed while waking. It seems too obvious to state that sleep requires periodic disengagement and withdrawal from networks and devices in order to enter a state of inactivity and uselessness. It is a form of time that leads us elsewhere than to the things we own or are told we need. Sleep is the dream of a non-utilitarian world, a world without labor.2

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J.G. Ballard: The Calculus of Desire and Hope

The narrators are in these texts caught in a triangular pattern of relationships in which they are drawn to authority figures who urge them to accept and embrace the twisted social logics they uncover.

– Andrzej Gasiorek, JG Ballard

‘Not really.’ Gould finished my coffee and pushed the empty cup back to me. ‘It isn’t only the psychopath who can grasp the idea of absolute nothing. Even a meaningless universe has meaning. Accept that and everything makes a new kind of sense.’

– J.G. Ballard, Millennium People

Have we entered the last stage of the game, a game-theoretic that has played itself out in ever more duplicitous cycles within cycles for the past hundred years or so? I’m speaking of the shifting sands of both economic and political ideologies as played out in the modeling hijinks of its greatest ideologues as each in turn has vied for the space of politics?  It was Henri Lefebvre who once, optimistically said to us that the declining State would be dissolved not so much into “society” in an abstract sense as into a reorganized social space. At this stage, the State would be able to maintain certain functions, including that of representation. The control of flows, the harmony between flows internal and external to a territory, will require that they be oriented against the global firms and, by implication, will also require a general management of a statist type during a certain transitional period. This can only lead toward the end goal and conclusion by means of the activity of the base: spatial (territorial) autogestion, direct democracy and democratic control, affirmation of the differences produced in and through that struggle.1 Do we believe in such myths anymore? Is this another throwaway idea that has had its day and gone under the crunch of globalism? Is Democracy like Communism before it running scared? Is capitalism like some dark infestation freed of a shadow substance leaving its cloaked narrative of freedom and democracy in the dustbin of history like all other lost causes?  What comes next? Will the totalitarian regimes of the future offer us everything we always wanted rather than depriving us of our livelihoods? The blueprints for our postliberal dictatorships are in the works even now: the totalitarian future will be subservient and ingratiating, catering to our every need, and only asking in return that we willingly give up our freedom for the security and comfort of a fully posthuman life. Cyborgs or transhumanists of a technocratic future we will live in the terminal zones of a paradise run by executives who are as affectless and apathetic as an alien from some machinic universe.

They like that. They like the alienation … There’s no past and no future. If they can, they opt for zones without meaning – airports, shopping malls, motorways, car parks. They’re in flight from the real.

– JG Ballard, from Millenium People

Yet, as Ben Woodard says in his new and excellent work, On an Ungrounded Earth: Toward a New Geophilosophy: Here we wish to subject the earth to pain – not as a somatized creature, but as a planet, the glob of baked matter that it is – in order to test its limitropic porosity and see how much ungrounding the earth can take before it ceases to be simultaneously and example of nature’s product and also its productivity.“2 Maybe we’re entering a new era, an era of planetary upheaval, of political and socio-cultural instability and transformation, that from one perspective might look like the grand collapse of civilization, but from another might tend more toward some form of breaktrhough in which the great wars for the earth take on a new and insidious meaning… Maybe what we’re seeing is the end of the Liberal worldview, with its system of enlightened governance that has ruled Western Civilization for at least two centuries. If this is so then what is coming our way?

A postliberal world of decay and decadence, fraught with both internal/external conflicts within science, culture, politics, and love? With the death knell of tyrannical communism and the slow death of liberal democracy is there something else on the horizon? We see the old guard  on both sides of the fence crying foul, saying that neither of these are finished, that there will always be one of these two views of life resurgent in our midst in one form or another. But is this true? Isn’t the devil out of the bag? Hasn’t capitalism in our time finally slayed the dragon of its own duplicitous  marriage to democracy? We’ve heard this before, haven’t we?

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J.G. Ballard: The Journey to Nowhere

I first met Jane Ciracylides during the Recess, that world slump of boredom, lethargy and high summer which carried us all so blissfully through ten unforgettable years, and I suppose that may have had a lot to do with what went on between us.

– J.G. Ballard, Prima Belladonna

J.G. Ballard loved to drop little oddities into his novels and stories. One that has intrigued me along the way this notion of the Great Recess, that as far as I can tell was only used in stories of the Vermillion Sands. We know it was a ten year period, a time of lethargic escape from the world of capitalism, a holiday where people suddenly found themselves in the world of boredom, of sex and paranoia. As a character in PB tells us this was a time when “no one cared very much about anything”(9) and time came to a standstill. The same character tells us that shortly after this period ended that “the big government schemes came along and started up all the clocks and kept us too busy working off the lost time to worry about a few bruised petals” (11). The only other mention is in the ATDS where we discover that before the Recess the world was much more decadent and irresponsible:

As Fay’s voice chattered on I turned and looked up the staircase towards the sun-lounge, my mind casting itself back ten years to one of the most famous trials of the decade, whose course and verdict were as much as anything else to mark the end of a whole generation, and show up the irresponsibilities of the world before the Recess. (311)

Etymologically we can understand Recess as:

1530s, “act of receding,” from Latin recessus “a going back, retreat,” from recessum, past participle of recedere “to recede” (see recede). Meaning “hidden or remote part” first recorded 1610s; that of “period of stopping from usual work” is from 1620s, probably from parliamentary notion of “recessing” into private chambers.

That strange “Recess” has haunted me for years. The idea of a blank in time, when all the clocks stop, the world of late capitalism grinds to a halt and everyone just seems to take a holiday. Nothing else, we hear not one thing more about this strange little thought in the works of Ballard. It’s as if he just filtered it out, let it lie there like a dejected component of his psyche that sat there silently waiting to be called forth again. Why? Why did he never explore this again? Reading William Schuyler’s Jungian analysis of Ballard I came across a short poignant remark: “We should also bear in mind the original meaning of holiday: a holy day on which ceremonies were performed; in this instance, rites of passage. In its own glossy, lurid, bizarre way, Vermilion Sands is a holy place, a place to which one resorts in time of need to undergo certain ordeals and take part in certain rites which are required of all who would become truly Conscious and thereby human.”(see essay). Yet, as we know the Recess was more like a great retreat, a withdrawal from work or maybe a refusal of work in the Berardian sense: “Refusal of work does not mean so much the obvious fact that workers do not like to be exploited, but something more. It means that the capitalist restructuring, the technological change,   and the general transformation of social institutions  are produced by the daily action of withdrawal from exploitation, of rejection of the obligation to produce surplus value, and to increase the value of capital, reducing the value of life.(“What is the meaning of Autonomy Today”, see here)

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J.G. Ballard: The Fragile World

I felt strongly, and still do, that psychoanalysis and surrealism were a key to the truth about existence and the human personality, and also a key to myself.

– J. G. Ballard,  Miracles of Life

Ballard enters one’s blood like a virus that is forever replicating its noxious programs in the neuronal filaments of the mind. As a young man I came upon his stories of bleak Martian landscapes where the voice of Ballard drifts over the alien world revealing a history of past atrocities in such allusive poetic elegance that one is almost tempted to forget the dark truth it presents:

At the Martian polar caps, where the original water vapour in the atmosphere had condensed, a residue of ancient organic matter formed the top-soil, a fine sandy loess containing the fossilized spores of the giant lichens and mosses which had been the last living organisms on the planet millions of years earlier. Embedded in these spores were the crystal lattices of the viruses which had once preyed on the plants, and traces of these were carried back to Earth with the Canaveral and Caspian ballast (366).1

In such passages Ballard offers the keen eye of a scientific naturalist with the caustic yet elliptic truth of a deadly but visible underworld of viruses that will bring to the homeworld of earth not an Edenic  resurrection of ancient life forms but instead the merciless agents of its own final apocalypse. At the end of this bleak tale Bridgeman one of the few who never left earth for the great adventure looks out on a sea of black obsidian dust, the plenum of the viral infestation that has now turned the homeworld into one giant desert:

He watched the pall disappear over the sea, then looked around at the other remnants of Merril’s capsule scattered over the slopes. High in the western night, between Pegasus and Cygnus, shone the distant disc of the planet Mars, which for both himself and the dead astronaut had served for so long as a symbol of unattained ambition. The wind stirred softly through the sand, cooling this replica of the planet which lay passively around him, and at last he understood why he had come to the beach and been unable to leave it. (372)

He didn’t need to leave it, Mars had come to earth with a vengeance.

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J.G. Ballard: Icarus and the Dying Fall into Nothingness

“For Bataille, the reason why people see the foot as inferior to the head is their habit of attributing a higher status to the vertical forms of thought. Man should fall on his four legs, otherwise he will never be able to write himself out not only as the writer but also as the written, not only as the seer but also as the seen.”        

– Cengiz Erdem

J.G. Ballard in the final story of his illustrious career let his protagonist utter the words of a man who was still haunted and defeated by the power of the natural life-death drives:

“I escaped, but that expression of triumph on Elaine’s face still puzzles me. Had she seen me pushing against the tower and assumed that I was responsible for its collapse? Was she proud of me for hating her so fiercely, and for at last stirring from my impotence to take my revenge? Perhaps only in her death did we truly come together, and the Tower of Pisa served a purpose for which it had waited for so many centuries.” [1]

The irony here of course is that there is no escape, nature and woman will have their way against the maddening hatred of her fiercely bitter and impotent son and ritual mate. Like some broken sexual object, the tower leans across the shadowy lives of husband and wife, revealing not so much the underlying geophysical dilemmas of our terrestrial plight, but of the vanity of all human aspiration to attain geometric verticality against the gravitas of earth’s spinning foam. For all things must fall toward the earth sooner or later. Even transgressors such as Icarus or Ballard’s wife killer. As Nick Land once said “The truth of transgression, at once utterly simple and yet ungraspable, is that evil does not survive to be judged.” [2]

Even in the first paragraph of Ballard’s story we see the martialing of the life-death drives, the victorious war cries of a cultural pariah, a man whose lack of emotional or moral intimacy reveals the psychopathic vision of our era’s dark eroticism at work. After reiterating his complicity in the death of his wife and of twenty other tourists on that fateful day three years removed this killer ponders the Icarian pride of his wife “in braving the worn and slippery stairs had been punished by the unseen forces that had sustained this unbalanced mass of masonry for so many centuries.” We learn from Cengiz Erdem that Icarus represented for that anti-Surrealist Georges Bataille a mythical entity of the Greek mind, one that poeticizes a “conception of imagination as flight from reality” leading to an “idealization of the bourgeois values disguised as the proletarian values, and the real lower world is pushed further down. [3] The inversion in Ballard’s protaganist is that the wife is neither real nor unreal, but a flight from the real into the unreal only for the protaganist, who sees in her only the dark presentiment of his own impotent life: moving to the tune of the life-death drives his schizoid mind enters a posthuman tribalism that worships only a final catastrophe of Man.

We learn the secret history of this fateful event as Ballard’s unnamed protagonist tells us “Our marriage, problematic from the start, had grown increasingly fraught during the previous year. Elaine had married me on the rebound, to spite an unfaithful lover, but soon decided that her husband, a classics lecturer at a minor university, was minor in all other respects. I was losing my students in a ferment of curriculum changes that would eventually lead to the descheduling of Latin and Greek and their replacement by cultural and media studies. My refusal to sue the university, Elaine decided, was a sign of my innate weakness, a frailty that soon extended to the marriage bed.” So at once we see the death of humanities and the human at the hands of it new masters, the minions of a accelerating captitalism doomed to repeat its own truncated myths. The subtle repression of a man whose sole aim is to hang onto his false consciousness, a mournful gleeman of a lost object, a Sadaen raptor in search of lasting prey. Is there a subtle lust hiding in the shadows of this affectless denizen of the halls of a falling and failing academy? As Sade answering Rousseau’s Julie says of lust: “It demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.” As Camille Paglia tells us in her visionary materialistic rant: “Sex is Power. Sex and aggression so fuse that not only is sex murderous but murder is sexual (p. 236).” [4]

Impotent from the beginning, this scholar of one candle decides to take his young wife on a vacation to Italy. Here amid the stones of history his wife discovers another fateful flaw in her husband: his fear of heights: “…Elaine discovered that I was afraid of heights, a fear that I had never noticed in myself but which she immediately set out to maximise. Unsettled by the looming space below the dome, I could barely force myself from the lift. My eyes seemed unwilling to focus on the curving walls, and I felt my heart-beat fall away, leaving me on the edge of a fainting fit.” This fear of heights is a fear of the expanses of thought itself and of the ‘will of the depths’, and one is reminded Ballard being a student of the Surrealist knew the power of its aesthetic, which Cengiz Erdem describes as the vain striving for a higher world. As he says, whereas “Surrealism is a hopeless case in that all they do is to devalue everything valuable. For Bataille, the Surrealists are merely a group of people making themselves ridiculous and being the objects of nervous laughter.”

Ballard’s protagonist after being led on a series of vertical ascents in which he was caught under the gaze of his young wife who “would watch me with her affectionate and lingering smile, like an older sister observing a timid sibling…” he asks: “Was she trying to cure me of my fear of heights, or to rub in my sense of my own inadequacy?” This ambivalence as Freud relates it:

“The loss of a love-object is an excellent opportunity for the ambivalence in love-relationships to make itself effective and come into the open. Where there is a disposition to obsessional neurosis the conflict due to ambivalence gives a pathological cast to mourning and forces it to express itself in the form of self-reproaches to the effect that the mourner himself is to blame for the loss of the loved object, i.e. that he has willed it. These obsessional states of depression following upon the death of a loved person show us what the conflict due to ambivalence can achieve by itself when there is no regressive drawing-in of libido as well. In melancholia, the occasions which give rise to the illness extend for the most part beyond the clear case of a loss by death, and include all those situations of being slighted, neglected or disappointed, which can import opposed feelings of love and hate into the relationship or reinforce an already existing ambivalence. This conflict due to ambivalence, which sometimes arises more from real experiences, sometimes more from constitutional factors, must not be overlooked among the preconditions of melancholia. If the love for the object – a love which cannot be given up though the object itself is given up – takes refuge in narcissistic identification, then the hate comes into operation on this substitutive object, abusing it, debasing it, making it suffer and deriving sadistic satisfaction from its suffering.” [5]

So finally the couple come to the fateful event, to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where the wife like a dark goddess of towers rises floor by floor looking back and down upon her weak husband, sneering with “her affectionate but knowing smirk, her contempt rising with each successive storey.” Our deadly protaganist, ambivalent and full of the love-hate that stirs one to a final revolt watched his wife rise tier by tier till at last she “reached the penultimate tier, I found myself needing to touch the tower, to feel the unforgiving marble against my skin.” As Erdem quoting Bataille against the surrealist Salvador Dali’s Lugubrious Game states: “If violent movements manage to rescue a being from profound boredom, it is because they can lead—through some obscure error—to a ghastly satiating ugliness. It must be said, moreover, that ugliness can be hateful without any recourse and, as it were, through misfortune, but nothing is more common than the equivocal ugliness that gives, in a provocative way, the illusion of the opposite. As for irrevocable ugliness, it is exactly as detestable as certain beauties: the beauty that conceals nothing, the beauty that is not the mask of ruined immodesty, the beauty that never contradicts itself and remains eternally at attention like a coward.”

Ballard’s protagonist as if participating in some ancient mystery religion, one that already always portends a sacrifice states his jubilation, his jouissance as he places his “hand on the antique marble, its surface pitted with the graffiti of centuries, its veins as marmoreal as fossilised time. The tower was both too erect and too old. I pressed against the massive flank, urging it on its way.” Like a priapus statue the tower rises upward into the sky where his wife, a high priestess of this dark religion awaits, and as “she seized the iron rail and smiled down at me in her most implacable way, slowly shaking her head at my weakness.” At this moment angered “by her open contempt, I pushed again at the solid marble. The wall refused to yield, but when I lifted my hand I noticed that a small crack had appeared in the surface, running away from a discoloured node of crushed limestone.” As Paglia says, a serial “or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction , masculine in its deranged egotism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics, and music (SP, p. 247).”

This postmodern Gilles de Reis of the scholarly set continues his exploration of the crack in the dark tower: “Curious, I pressed again, only to see that the crack had widened. It inched upwards at a barely visible pace, then darted forward, climbing the wall like a sudden fissure in a sheet of ice.” Then like a madman, devoid of all ethical resources, a vatic emissary of the the life-death drives, a harbinger of the schizoid-paranoiac drone world of our new age of decadent despair he laughs, pressing “both hands at the marble drum. Immediately the crack accelerated, and I heard a distant rumble, the dark groan of an awakening creature deep within the tower.” In this moment between his touch and the awakening of the beast comes something else, a new object, the falling body of his wife as she surges toward him, her face turning from anger “as she noticed me far below her, to one of triumph.” As Nick Land tells us “Transgression is not a misdemeanour, even if this is the necessary form of its social interpretation. It is rather a solar barbarism, resonant with that of the berserkers, and of all those who fathom an abysmal inhumanity on the battle-field. No tragedy without an Agamemnon, or some other mad beast of war, whose nemesis preempts the discourse of the juridical institution, and whose death is thus marked by a peculiar intimacy (TA, p. 50). But in this case the beast that dies is the warrior amazonian wife, and only the ghost of a coward is left pondering the triumph of her smile.

All that is left is “terrifying dreams as the tons of marble hurtle towards” this desultory protaganist. And, all that is left for him is “the expression on her face, the fierce pride that lit her eyes.” And even as these nightmares wander along his dead days he asks: “Did she feel that she had at last triumphed over me, and was happy to see me crushed by the cascade of tumbling columns? … Had she seen me pushing against the tower and assumed that I was responsible for its collapse? Was she proud of me for hating her so fiercely, and for at last stirring from my impotence to take my revenge?”
Maybe Freud is correct when he says:

“The self-tormenting in melancholia, which is without doubt enjoyable, signifies, just like the corresponding phenomenon in obsessional neurosis, a satisfaction of trends of sadism and hate which relate to an object, and which have been turned round upon the subject’s own self… In both disorders the patients usually still succeed, by the circuitous path of self-punishment, in taking revenge on the original object and in tormenting their loved one through their illness, having resorted to it in order to avoid the need to express their hostility to [her] openly. After all, the person who has occasioned the patient’s emotional disorder, and on whom his illness is centred, is usually to be found in his immediate environment. The melancholic’s erotic cathexis in regard to his object has thus undergone a double vicissitude: part of it has regressed to identification, but the other part, under the influence of the conflict due to ‘ambivalence, has been carried back to the stage of sadism which is nearer to that conflict (ibid., p. 3048).”

It is this double-bind, the schizoid-paranoid nihilist, the voidic crap-artist of a surreal laughter, a collapsing scholar of the night that is always already oblivion’s minion, which brings this ancient hermaphroditic priest of the great goddess to that point which Emily Dickinson sang of, chanting: “Death is the subtle Suitor / That wins at last.” A self-flagellating cannibal of other’s identities, engorged on the deaths of saints and sinners alike, a connoisseur of chaos: – a voyeur, vampire, necrophiliac, and sexual sadean he is haunted only by the enigma of his Lover’s triumphant smile as the tower: that figure of the impotent male, the figure of a decimated history, an apocalyptic verticality falling toward earth shifts desperately at last within Ballard’s final thoughts.

1. The Dying Fall by J.G. Ballard The Guardian, Saturday 25 April 2009

2. The Thirse for Annihilation, Nick Land (Routledge, 1992)

3. Bataille and the Surrealists: Is Pineal Eye an Organ Without a Body?, Cengiz Erdem

4. Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia (Vintage Books 1991)

5. MOURNING AND MELANCHOLIA, Freud – Complete Works (1917 [1915])