Concrete Island

“He licked the last drops of Salad Cream from his blackened fingers”

14 March 2020
Last night (Friday 13th) I started listening to Concrete Island by J.G. Ballard.
Immediately I was reminded of the 1964 film Woman in the Dunes (砂の女) by Hiroshi Teshigahara (see below). I have not read Kōbō Abe’s book that the film is based on so I can’t bring that in to my thinking. But the imagery of Teshigahara’s film and the emotional disturbance it evoked in me at the time, are again evoked by Concrete Island. Although Ballard’s book is set in England I picture the island that Maitland (the book’s protagonist) is stranded on is in the USA. Not being a driver myself it is the filmic images of American concrete jungles, of freeways and highways that I know best. The story also reminds me of Martin Amis’ Money. And this reminds me I have to read Don Delillo’s Cosmopolis that sits patiently on my shelf.

And now today, as coronavirus floats through our globalised, socially networked world I think of White Noise.

I have never read Ballard, and yesterday I was drawn to his writing as I searched for Crash, the 1996 film by David Cronenberg. I am reading Cyberspace, first steps (ed. Michael Benedikt) and Maybe it was the chapter from William Gibson that made me seek out Crash. Its probably been 20 years since I watched it.

Today I found a ziplock bag in the gutter containing a small brass pipe, a quantity of weed and a tooth pick (presumably for cleaning the pipe).

I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Paranoid, I thought of Coronavirus. I consciously only used my left hand and did not put that hand anywhere near my face, it just hung there, disowned. quarantined, tasked only now to the retrieval of the bag from the pocket. I was walking to the shops, I decided not to carry a bag of weed around with me and looked for a place to stash it. I passed the sandstone wall of a mansion and spotted a gap in its mortar, I shoved the bag in, with my left hand, and continued on my passage to the shop.

In the shop I stifled a cough, for fear of sparking any level of social pandemonium. My nose itching, my throat tickling, psychosomatically. I had been unofficially self-isolating and this was my 2nd or 3rd trip out of the house. The previous times were to the grocery store. Asian kids wearing medical masks, everyone else ignoring the fact, inner paranoia of course, but socially not yet ready to mask themselves up. The grocery store is in an area well populated by Asian students. I read in the New Yorker (I think) that the Coronavirus has surfaced anti-asian prejudice. We are such fragile animals.

My friend called today to tell me he was in town. Wanted to catch up. The only catch was he had the beginnings of a cold.

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