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The mediascapes of late capitalism reconfigure erotic responses and trigger primal aggression; under constant surveillance, we occupy simulations of ourselves, private estates on a hyperconnected globe; fictions reprogram reality, memories are rewritten by the future… Fleeing the excesses of ’90s cyberculture, a young researcher sets out to systematically analyse the obsess The mediascapes of late capitalism reconfigure erotic responses and trigger primal aggression; under constant surveillance, we occupy simulations of ourselves, private estates on a hyperconnected globe; fictions reprogram reality, memories are rewritten by the future… Fleeing the excesses of ’90s cyberculture, a young researcher sets out to systematically analyse the obsessively reiterated themes of a writer who prophesied the disorienting future we now inhabit. The story of his failure is as disturbingly psychotropic as those of his magus—J.G. Ballard, prophet of the post-postmodern, voluptuary of the car crash, surgeon of the pathological virtualities pulsing beneath the surface of reality. Plagued by obsessive fears, defeated by the tedium of academia, yet still certain that everything connects to Ballard, his academic thesis collapses into a series of delirious travelogues, deranged speculations and tormented meditations on time, memory, and loss. Abandoning literary interpretation and renouncing all scholarly distance, he finally accepts the deep assignment that has run throughout his entire life, and embarks on a rogue fieldwork project: Applied Ballardianism, a new discipline and a new ideal for living. Only the darkest impulses, the most morbid obsessions, and the most apocalyptic paranoia, can uncover the technological mutations of inner space. An existential odyssey inextricably weaving together lived experience and theoretical insight, this startling autobiographical hyperfiction surveys and dissects a world where everything connects and global technological delirium is the norm—a world become unmistakably... Ballardian.


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The mediascapes of late capitalism reconfigure erotic responses and trigger primal aggression; under constant surveillance, we occupy simulations of ourselves, private estates on a hyperconnected globe; fictions reprogram reality, memories are rewritten by the future… Fleeing the excesses of ’90s cyberculture, a young researcher sets out to systematically analyse the obsess The mediascapes of late capitalism reconfigure erotic responses and trigger primal aggression; under constant surveillance, we occupy simulations of ourselves, private estates on a hyperconnected globe; fictions reprogram reality, memories are rewritten by the future… Fleeing the excesses of ’90s cyberculture, a young researcher sets out to systematically analyse the obsessively reiterated themes of a writer who prophesied the disorienting future we now inhabit. The story of his failure is as disturbingly psychotropic as those of his magus—J.G. Ballard, prophet of the post-postmodern, voluptuary of the car crash, surgeon of the pathological virtualities pulsing beneath the surface of reality. Plagued by obsessive fears, defeated by the tedium of academia, yet still certain that everything connects to Ballard, his academic thesis collapses into a series of delirious travelogues, deranged speculations and tormented meditations on time, memory, and loss. Abandoning literary interpretation and renouncing all scholarly distance, he finally accepts the deep assignment that has run throughout his entire life, and embarks on a rogue fieldwork project: Applied Ballardianism, a new discipline and a new ideal for living. Only the darkest impulses, the most morbid obsessions, and the most apocalyptic paranoia, can uncover the technological mutations of inner space. An existential odyssey inextricably weaving together lived experience and theoretical insight, this startling autobiographical hyperfiction surveys and dissects a world where everything connects and global technological delirium is the norm—a world become unmistakably... Ballardian.

30 review for Applied Ballardianism: Memoir from a Parallel Universe

  1. 5 out of 5

    pierlapo quimby

    Cronaca cyberpunk di un collasso apofenico di un Ballard-nerd/geek/freak. Ballardissimo! Innanzitutto ricomposi la mia biblioteca ballardiana: diciannove romanzi, il mastodontico volume dei racconti completi, un archivio di fotocopie di esperimenti e bizzarrie assortite. Poi presi una lametta e iniziai a separare meticolosamente ogni pagina dalla rilegatura. Alla fine avevo 5951 pagine singole. Passai allo scanner e digitalizzai ogni parola, fino a che non mi trovai con un archivio delle 2.015.085 Cronaca cyberpunk di un collasso apofenico di un Ballard-nerd/geek/freak. Ballardissimo! Innanzitutto ricomposi la mia biblioteca ballardiana: diciannove romanzi, il mastodontico volume dei racconti completi, un archivio di fotocopie di esperimenti e bizzarrie assortite. Poi presi una lametta e iniziai a separare meticolosamente ogni pagina dalla rilegatura. Alla fine avevo 5951 pagine singole. Passai allo scanner e digitalizzai ogni parola, fino a che non mi trovai con un archivio delle 2.015.085 parole usate dal maestro. Per ultimo, mi lanciai in una scriteriata missione cerca-e-distruggi: isolai scrupolosamente tutte le similitudini – 5875 in totale. Le riunii in un documento di circa 100 pagine ordinate per temi. Tracciai quindi il tessuto connettivo – tunnel e passaggi che andavano da una similitudine all’altra – annotando osservazioni e commenti sulla solidità e la fragilità dei collegamenti. Una volta individuate le connessioni più solide, stampai le similitudini più importanti e le archiviai in cartelline colorate, poi le annotai e le combinai con tentacoli di tratti di biro e di evidenziatore. Riempii centinaia di pagine di appunti e incollai centinaia di similitudini sulle pareti del mio appartamento, nel tentativo di dare un senso a quella selva domestica di diagrammi e simboli. Il progetto mi impegnò per un mese, durante il quale a malapena uscii di casa. Mangiavo solo cibo da asporto. La mia pelle si fece giallastra e si gonfiò. [...] Seduto nell’appartamento, circondato dai detriti della mia pazzia, assediato dalle montagne di carta strappata e dalle similitudini isolate che coprivano il pavimento – uno spettacolo che mi ricordava le discariche delle edgelands in cui avevo passato così tanto tempo – capii che ciò che avevo stampato era solo un encefalogramma del mio io in rovina.

  2. 4 out of 5

    RobPalindrome

    What a weird and wonderful book! Part homage to JG Ballard, part summary of his life and academic critique of his work, (large) part 'gonzo' style travelogue and, at times, part imitation/exploration of the 'ballardian' aesthetic. Ballard is infamous for the duality of his life - writing graphic and shocking extracts of The Atrocity Exhibition in between dropping off and collecting his children from school and carrying out mundane housework, for instance - and Sellars's parallel universe seems to What a weird and wonderful book! Part homage to JG Ballard, part summary of his life and academic critique of his work, (large) part 'gonzo' style travelogue and, at times, part imitation/exploration of the 'ballardian' aesthetic. Ballard is infamous for the duality of his life - writing graphic and shocking extracts of The Atrocity Exhibition in between dropping off and collecting his children from school and carrying out mundane housework, for instance - and Sellars's parallel universe seems to work in a similar way. At times I was really left questioning which parts of the book were autobiographical, and which were pure fiction, much in the way one wonders how much of the central character in Empire of the Sun or Miracles of Life is JG Ballard (or how much of the 'Ballard' in Crash is the authorial James Graham Ballard). At other points, it's quite clear that it's pure fiction... There is an ambiguity and enigmatic quality to the work that is at times really captivating. I found this a thoroughly enjoying experience, but then I am also fairly obsessed with Ballard's oeuvre and with what Sellars has dubbed 'applied ballardianism'. While reading I kept questioning how the book might be received by someone less interested in (or even aware of) Ballard's work. Ballard's influence remains present throughout the book, yet as a 'page turner' and a book focused on travel, the difficulties of academia, and even the paranormal (!), I believe there is more than enough here to engage readers less enthusiastic about the protagonist's central obsession. Read this if you are at all interested in Ballard, obsession (or perhaps more accurately, an obsession with obsessions), 'gonzo' style writing, and the self-doubt and mania one can encounter when working on a PhD. Don't read it if you are expecting an academic study of Ballard (there a plenty other more suitable options that have been published in the last 10 years), or if you are about to start work on a doctorate...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glaucon

    Following numerous successful attempts at over-elaborating the otherwise succinct and exacting work of J.G. Ballard, our narrator ekes out a life globe-hopping and pontificating all while not really enjoying himself. Early on, our narrator attempts to give a talk on Ballard in front of a legion of in-vogue defacto gatekeeper academics and the most dull and thoughtless rabble of a Ballard sci-fi fandom. Does this star-wars-cosplaying, theory-hating, shallow Ballard fandom even exist, or are they t Following numerous successful attempts at over-elaborating the otherwise succinct and exacting work of J.G. Ballard, our narrator ekes out a life globe-hopping and pontificating all while not really enjoying himself. Early on, our narrator attempts to give a talk on Ballard in front of a legion of in-vogue defacto gatekeeper academics and the most dull and thoughtless rabble of a Ballard sci-fi fandom. Does this star-wars-cosplaying, theory-hating, shallow Ballard fandom even exist, or are they there to illustrate a point about the supposed lack of critical attention that Sellars sees in scifi's fans? I've never seen any evidence of the former. We do spend some time on Ballardian cybersexual-fetishists, but Sellars seems to imply that even they don't get Ballard's nuanced accelerated displaced desire. Anyway, our narrator (unnamed, but of course boringly and typically Sellars himself) gives a talk on Ballard that is . . . surprisingly cohesive and insightful, despite its off-the cuff tone and allusions to Oprah Winfrey. But, his holy academics leave him in a gust of their collective eye-rolls and the nerds jeer and boo him. This is the impetus for Sellars to ditch academia once and for all and leave his thesis, and his subliminal penis envy behind. Yet Ballard seems to haunt Sellars endlessly. If we are to believe this is an experiment on the form of memoir, this is an entirely oedipal project! Which is not a problem at all if the work itself didn't seem so oblivious to itself in this regard. All of the self-criticism is always glazed with a sleek, snide undertone of self-righteousness. Every invocation of Ballard, Marker, Verhoeven, Virilio, and the rest of Sellars' favorite men is done with a flourish of academic appreciation that cradles their ideas like untouched newborns that only he can provide the fecund bosom from which they are given suck. Hmm, what was that about your denouncing academia? What person besides an aspiring-academic makes the outrageous claim that you're bored by a Rembrandt but rendered breathless by a Mondrian (and then publishes the sentiment in a book with Urbanomic)? I was really looking forward to this book! Especially after Extreme Metaphors turned out to be a vindicating and extensive collection of Ballard's singular ideas and prophecies. I suppose my biggest problem is that J.G. Ballard existed outside of the world that the likes of Virilio and Baudrillard did, and that was essential to his work. His novels are also unabashedly venomous towards the wealthy and satirical of any strain of ivory tower erudition. Ballard was also good at imbibing his ideas in his work, even when the work wasn't that good. I think they spoke full force and will continue to do so to countless other fans of his work. If you never intend to read Ballard, or at least never more than one novel, perhaps this would be a good substitute, because besides recalling his unique accelerationism Sellars doesn't appear to have much more to say. (But maybe I'm totally wrong, I couldn't finish it.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Vena

    una specie di I-Ching. Lo apri e vedi cosa è già successo nel tuo inner space.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Intortetor

    aiuto: definire cos'è esattamente "ballardismo applicato" è praticamente impossibile. non è un romanzo, o almeno non è al 100% un romanzo; e anche se lo fosse la trama è assai sfuggente e quantomeno non facile da riassumere. non è un saggio critico sull'opera di james ballard, per quanto ci siano parecchie riflessioni sul grande e compianto scrittore britannico che sicuramente susciteranno dibattiti tra gli appassionati dell'autore di "crash" e "condominium". non è un'autobiografia, o almeno mi aug aiuto: definire cos'è esattamente "ballardismo applicato" è praticamente impossibile. non è un romanzo, o almeno non è al 100% un romanzo; e anche se lo fosse la trama è assai sfuggente e quantomeno non facile da riassumere. non è un saggio critico sull'opera di james ballard, per quanto ci siano parecchie riflessioni sul grande e compianto scrittore britannico che sicuramente susciteranno dibattiti tra gli appassionati dell'autore di "crash" e "condominium". non è un'autobiografia, o almeno mi auguro per l'autore che non sia del tutto la sua autobiografia (e non solo per il finale scioccante) , sebbene i dati trovati in rete su simon sellars fanno emergere diverse cose in comune tra il protagonista dell'opera e il suo autore: me lo auguro perchè è praticamente una discesa verso una forma di pazzia (anzi, verso una forma specifica di psicosi, ma di questo leggerete sul libro al momento opportuno) e ci si trova ad avere per il protagonista un mix di apprensione per lui e di paura verso di lui. forse è un mix tra queste tre cose, forse è altro, di certo è qualcosa se non di inedito quantomeno di difficile da trovare in giro: non sono sicuro possa piacere a tutti, anzi ho il serio dubbio che saranno in tanti a mollarlo vinti dall'ennesimo momento difficile da decifrare e parecchi resteranno interdetti da un finale che invece di chiarire incasina ancora di più il senso di quello che fino ad allora si è letto. quello di cui sono sicuro è che "ballardismo applicato" è un libro denso: denso di idee, di riflessioni, di luoghi, di suggerimenti artistico/culturali (scusate l'ennesima parentesi ma sentivo il bisogno di scrivere a questo proposito che mi ha fatto piacere veder spuntare tra le pagine la musica di alan lamb, vecchio culto dei lettori di blow up quando ancora era la guida italiana alla musica più sperimentale), tanto che arrivati alla lista finale di riferimenti culturali citati vien quasi voglia di lanciarsi alla ricerca di tutto quello che è apparso nel libro, così come vien voglia di armarsi di macchina fotografica e lanciarsi all'esplorazione delle edgelands della propria città. oltre a riprendere in mano i classici di james ballard, ovviamente. forse non il libro che mi aspettavo di leggere, ma decisamente uno dei libri più particolari letti negli ultimi anni.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate Sherrod

    I'll have a full review up at Skiffy and Fanty, but in brief, this fictionalized autobiography is part meditation on how our everyday world has become indistinguishable from science fiction and part cautionary tale against letting one writer -- especially one as pathologically fascinating, prescient and disturbing as J.G. Ballard -- so completely colonize your imagination that you find yourself transformed into one of that writer's protagonists without the benefit of the writer's guiding hand on I'll have a full review up at Skiffy and Fanty, but in brief, this fictionalized autobiography is part meditation on how our everyday world has become indistinguishable from science fiction and part cautionary tale against letting one writer -- especially one as pathologically fascinating, prescient and disturbing as J.G. Ballard -- so completely colonize your imagination that you find yourself transformed into one of that writer's protagonists without the benefit of the writer's guiding hand on the "plot" of your life. A passage at the end offers the reader a chance to interpret all that came before -- encounters with telepaths, UFO sightings, muggings and random violence on many continents and not one but two failed attempts at a PhD -- as symptoms of a disease we don't yet know or side effects of a treatment we haven't yet developed, and that might make this book More Ballard Than Ballard. I'd be very, very interested to see what people who are unfamiliar with J.G. Ballard make of this book, and how it might color their experience of reading Ballard afterward -- which anyone who does take this up will surely want to do!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Vena

    Lalalalaaaaaaaaaaaa Sellars travalica generi, fa una metafiction, un Cut-Up creativo e immersivo delle metafore estreme ballardiane, celebra la nostra contemporaneità davvero adesso diventata ballardiana ovunque. L'ho letto lentamente, godendomi la bellezza di capitoli pieni di rimandi e citazioni e sempre, maledettamente, creativi. Per l'operazione, la qualità dell'esecuzione, le parole chiave svolte beh, questo è il più bel romanzo, la migliore fiction non fiction, che ho letto da molto tempo.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mat Ranson

    You're reading this because you love Ballard. However, beware. Ceci n'est pas une Ballard. Essential reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Benedetta Ventrella (rienva)

    Sebbene a momenti sembri reiterare un dispositivo narrativo troppe volte, e diventi un po' faticoso procedere, il libro di Sellars è un'immersione atipica nella narrativa di Ballard, dalla quale si esce fuori consapevoli della grandezza dell'autore inglese, anticipatore e preveggente come pochi, interessato a temi che, nel 2020, sembrano sempre più cruciali.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    3.5 stars--a difficult book to assess. I appreciated Sellars' many insightful observations about Ballard and was intrigued by the conceit of the project (a quasi-academic treatise embedded in a memoir, or vice-versa), but found myself growing increasingly impatient with the narrator's unrelenting sadsack apocalypticism. To his credit, Sellars' narrator frequently voices self-criticisms, often through the mouths of acquaintances, co-workers, etc, but invariably responds by doubling down on Ballar 3.5 stars--a difficult book to assess. I appreciated Sellars' many insightful observations about Ballard and was intrigued by the conceit of the project (a quasi-academic treatise embedded in a memoir, or vice-versa), but found myself growing increasingly impatient with the narrator's unrelenting sadsack apocalypticism. To his credit, Sellars' narrator frequently voices self-criticisms, often through the mouths of acquaintances, co-workers, etc, but invariably responds by doubling down on Ballardian gloom. Modernity is conceived, naively, I should think, as an all-or-nothing proposition: one is either a sell-out or, should one reject the programming, a pariah. But it seems to me that the notion of an "authentic life" over and against the simulacra of modernity, is itself one of Ballard's targets. That is to say, the terms of "Sellars'" resistance (or his narrator's, rather) are themselves products (symptoms) of modernity. I feel like I'm not being entirely fair to the book, though; it felt throughout that I was reading against a shifting set of expectations, theoretical and/or fictional, and as a result, the book never really satisfied. I've certainly thought about it quite a bit, though, which is always a good measure of any book's worth. There are also a number of positives I should note: the writing itself is quite good, perhaps less on its own terms than as a pastiche of Ballardian style; and again, as mentioned above, Sellars displays an impressive command of Ballard's work (with emphasis on the mid- to late novels).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mahria

    So complex and funny. A great critique of the simultaneous magnetism and solipsism of academia. An authentic-feeling rendering of mental illness where there's a great cloud of ambiguity as to whether the author is self-aware about his own struggles. Deeply fictitious and autobiographical in the best way, an exciting puzzle for the reader. You never know how crazy the narrator is and how much of that craziness is shared by the author. The book puts a magnifying glass to so many weird phenomena in So complex and funny. A great critique of the simultaneous magnetism and solipsism of academia. An authentic-feeling rendering of mental illness where there's a great cloud of ambiguity as to whether the author is self-aware about his own struggles. Deeply fictitious and autobiographical in the best way, an exciting puzzle for the reader. You never know how crazy the narrator is and how much of that craziness is shared by the author. The book puts a magnifying glass to so many weird phenomena in the contemporary quotidian that I hadn't thought to examine. Also if you're like me, this book will introduce you to some theorists you might not have heard of with some pretty interesting glosses of their ideas that are relevant to the story. Those are the strengths. I can't give this fascinating text five stars because the prose can get clunky and awkward and the deep alienation and dysfunction of the narrator character weakens its more academic arguments. Imperfect but I've never read anything like it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Graham Freestone

    This is a fantastic book. I kept putting off reading it because I hadn't actually read any Ballard but once I dipped in I was totally hooked. Like a bizarre combination of Castaneda and Bukowski (with a smattering of Anton-Wilson), Sellars adventures in the Ballardian world (which is also this one) make for fascinating reading. The Ballard deficit wasn't any problem as Sellars explains the plot and significance of any of the stories he's engaged in at any given point -indeed whilst not a critici This is a fantastic book. I kept putting off reading it because I hadn't actually read any Ballard but once I dipped in I was totally hooked. Like a bizarre combination of Castaneda and Bukowski (with a smattering of Anton-Wilson), Sellars adventures in the Ballardian world (which is also this one) make for fascinating reading. The Ballard deficit wasn't any problem as Sellars explains the plot and significance of any of the stories he's engaged in at any given point -indeed whilst not a criticism, some are so thoroughly explained as to potentially obviate my reading them themselves. Highly recommended for all manner of philosophy/theory crazies, people in need of a reality crack or just a really entertaining (though sometimes disturbing) read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Hackett

    Kind of an anti-Bildungsroman about a neurotic academic’s attempt to navigate his obsessions and his descent into madness and/or liberation. A deep and abiding appreciation for J.G. Ballard is probably a prerequisite for enjoying this book (not to be obvious, I mean it is right there in the title), but then again YMMV.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Eade

    Possibly favourite book I read in 2018. Works as a novel and builds your understanding of Ballard along the way. Should come with a do-not-try-this-at-home warning though. Descriptions of life in melbourne or as a cyclist on australian roads are brilliant.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hugh Dufour

    Wow. I love this book. It kept me guessing from beginning to end, all the while flashing fascinating insights about Ballard, life, and society. Please read this. I see big things up ahead for this book and Simon Sellars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Matheny

    Simply brilliant This the best new book I've read in quite some time. I really enjoyed the style and the pacing. Great job.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Riar

    Possibly my favourite travelogue ever written. Ballardianism resonates with me really hard.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kay Mack

    little gloomy, but I still liked it

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josh Carswell

    Sellars has characterised the book as an exercise in failure, failure of the very idea of applying Ballardianism – at least in the sense his narrator attempts, as an ideal for living. As his life becomes mediatized by the very media warning him against its dangers, the narrator's journey amounts to an exploration of inner space in the term's most restricted sense: as a solipsism, or phenomenology. Now the character sees orbs in the sky, ghosts on airfields, Ballardian ley lines, everywhere. Cast Sellars has characterised the book as an exercise in failure, failure of the very idea of applying Ballardianism – at least in the sense his narrator attempts, as an ideal for living. As his life becomes mediatized by the very media warning him against its dangers, the narrator's journey amounts to an exploration of inner space in the term's most restricted sense: as a solipsism, or phenomenology. Now the character sees orbs in the sky, ghosts on airfields, Ballardian ley lines, everywhere. Cast adrift from the media Events central to Ballard's texts, the narrator's theory-fiction has folded back in on itself, as conspiracy theory. I believe that Sellars is saying, in effect, that dissociation must bottom out somewhere. The ground awaits any such schizoid free-fall, and this ground may resemble any number of things: conspiracist paranoia, hard concrete, hikikomori, windshield glass... Yet, I don't see all theory fiction as bad religion. If we can keep our grounding in sight, we might be able to foresee and avoid what lurks behind the cracks in reality, and at the same time, produce the condition for original thought and expression. [From my essay “Two Questions Concerning Applied Ballardianism”, available here.]

  20. 4 out of 5

    August Bourré

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fabio

  22. 5 out of 5

    Panormino

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gundry

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex K

  25. 5 out of 5

    S.C. Hickman

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

  27. 4 out of 5

    KR

  28. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike Corrao

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pelle Sten

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