Ballard, Bourgeoisie and Violent Crime

Ballard's work reveals the dark heart of contemporary consumer society
In a review of Millenium People for Open Letters Monthly, Joshua Lustig surveys patterns of prosperity and violence in J. G. Ballard's novels:
The two that preceded Millennium People, Cocaine Nights (1996) and Super-Cannes (2000), are also set in motion by crimes that prompt their easygoing narrators to become amateur detectives. Each of these narrators is lured away from bourgeois security and self-restraint, tempted by the amoral creed of the suspects he pursues. The formulaic appearance of these novels is deceptive: the familiar conventions of detective fiction conceal a persistent inquiry into the state of millennial society, a series of sociological experiments conducted in symbolic sites of Western European prosperity. In Cocaine Nights, the setting is Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast, the Costa del Sol, and the retirement and vacation complexes that crowd its shore. In this torpid wasteland of “a billion balconies facing the sun,” a charismatic tennis pro incites the residents to dabble in crime to conquer their terminal boredom. In Super-Cannes, the scene shifts to a cutting-edge office park on the French Riviera, “an ideas laboratory for the new millennium.” Rather than a surfeit of leisure, the problem becomes an excess of work, but the visionary staff psychiatrist has a similar prescription: a program of “therapeutic psychopathy” to reinvigorate exhausted executives. [Read More]

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