Another sleepless night, rain tapping at the skylight again. The sound is so predictable it's become comforting. I'd notice its absence, like the first crisp fall night without the mechanical hum of a fan that's lulled me to sleep all summer. I'm awake far too early, trailing my thumb over my bookshelf. At first I select some Vonnegut to while away the remaining dark hours, but I can't settle into it. I pick up this book, read the first page. Yes, this is the one. Let's see where it takes me.
I read a bit more last night before drifting off to sleep. I find it interesting the way Ballard handles the subject matter. It isn't titillating and I don't believe it's intended to be. I read someplace that he said of this book, "I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror." The descriptions of the crashes and ensuing carnage are harsh, violent and ugly, and yet there's a psychic distance maintained in the use of language that borders on clinical. It's voyeuristic, like catching a glimpse of your neighbors doing something naughty and not being able to look away. But again, not titillating. More like scientific curiosity.
Reading is a bit slow right now because of work stress and sheer exhaustion. As I work my way slowly through this novel, I keep thinking of my first ever car crash. It was minor -- I've never been in a severe one (and hope I didn't just jinx myself). I was 16, learning to drive, and my dad let me take the family car to the gas station to fill up the tank. He went with me, because I only had a learner's permit. We had this enormous blue station wagon we had dubbed "the beemer" (Blue Malibu Wagon = BMW). My dad had a thing for big American cars. They made him feel safe. His ideal was a burgundy 1973 Chevy Impala he had once owned that was more like a boat on wheels than a car. So I'm driving this station wagon that's about the size of a tank, make it to the gas station with my dad in the passenger seat, pull out and oversteer the turn. The car rolled up onto the sidewalk and crashed into a metal light pole. While I'm sitting there thinking, "Oh shit oh shit oh shit." My dad first asks if I'm okay and after I nod nervously, he just bursts with laughter. The damage to the car was minimal -- perhaps one of the advantages of driving a tank. It required replacement of the front left fender, which he found cheap at a junk yard and, I think, put on himself. He was a mechanic for several years in his youth. I had a technicolor steering-wheel-shaped bruise on my abdomen for several days.
May 15, 2011. Finally coming back to this. I've decided it's time to work my way through my "will come back to no really" shelf.
As an aside, the soundtracks from The Social Network
and Tron Legacy
make good background listening for this book.