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They Live
     

They Live

3.6 3
by Jonathan Lethem
 

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Deep Focus is a series of film books with a fresh approach. Take the smartest, liveliest writers in contemporary letters and let them loose on the most vital and popular corners of cinema history: midnight movies, the New Hollywood of the sixties and seventies, film noir, screwball comedies, international cult classics, and more. Passionate and idiosyncratic,

Overview

Deep Focus is a series of film books with a fresh approach. Take the smartest, liveliest writers in contemporary letters and let them loose on the most vital and popular corners of cinema history: midnight movies, the New Hollywood of the sixties and seventies, film noir, screwball comedies, international cult classics, and more. Passionate and idiosyncratic, each volume of Deep Focus is long-form criticism that’s relentlessly provocative and entertaining.

Kicking off the series is Jonathan Lethem’s take on They Live, John Carpenter’s 1988 classic amalgam of deliberate B-movie, sci-fi, horror, anti-Yuppie agitprop. Lethem exfoliates Carpenter’s paranoid satire in a series of penetrating, free-associational forays into the context of a story that peels the human masks off the ghoulish overlords of capitalism. His field of reference spans classic Hollywood cinema and science fiction, as well as popular music and contemporary art and theory. Taking into consideration the work of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, James Brown, Fredric Jameson, Shepard Fairey, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edgar Allan Poe, not to mention the role of wrestlers—including They Live star “Rowdy” Roddy Piper—in contemporary culture, Lethem’s They Live provides a wholly original perspective on Carpenter’s subversive classic.

Editorial Reviews

Dave Kehr
…Lethem pulls apart the threads of John Carpenter's 1988 science fiction film…to entertaining and illuminating effect…Lethem may deconstruct "They Live," but he does not destroy it. Instead, by uncovering its inner confusions and undigested appropriations, he rescues the film from its own perilous preachiness and detachment. Carpenter's film emerges from Lethem's inspection a more human and mysterious work, less coherent perhaps but fully immersed in the noisy, ceaseless traffic of cultural exchange.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
Praise for They Live

"Apparently, author Lethem was the only other person than me to take They Live as brilliant, stinging social commentary. He explains why in this great book.” — Sam Stowe, California Literary Review

"Who would have thought that one of the cleverest, most accessibly in-depth film books released this year would be a smart-ass novelist exploring a cheesy-cheeky ‘80s sci-fi flick wherein a former wrestler combats an alien occupation via magic sunglasses? . . . [Jonathan Lethem] is able to seriously dissect the movie’s message and often highbrow references, while also fully acknowledging its silliness." —Hartford Advocate

"Novelist and occasional critic Jonathan Lethem pulls apart the threads of John Carpenter's 1988 science fiction film of the same title, to entertaining and illuminating effect . . . Carpenter’s film emerges from Lethem’s inspection a more human and mysterious work, less coherent perhaps but fully immersed in the noisy, ceaseless traffic of cultural exchange." —The New York Times Book Review

"A fun read, packed with references to other films, literature and artists . . . one of the few books one would enjoy reading while watching a movie." —USA Today's Pop Candy

Library Journal
John Carpenter's sensationally paranoid They Live (1988) grabbed yuppie capitalism and the Reagan establishment in an allegorical headlock full of B-movie aplomb. Lethem (Chronic City; Motherless Brooklyn) here launches the "Deep Focus" series, intended to highlight smart and lively dissections of influential aspects of cinema beyond the mainstream. Like a jazz riff on the traditional critical method, the result is a free-form and poetical exploration. Organized by film-time elapsed, the chapters break down, shot by shot, the composition and symbolism of Carpenter's film. We experience the scenes through Lethem's subjective lens, occasionally departing on seemingly stream-of-consciousness philosophical engagements of filmic subtexts. VERDICT Familiarity with the film or Carpenter's oeuvre isn't required. Fans of film criticism (by the likes of Pauline Kael, Anthony Lane, and A.O. Scott) and pop-culture punch will find enough well-coiffed wit to satisfy. A hipster-smart series for the bad-ass intellectual or subversive film student. [The second book in the series, Christopher Sorrentino's Death Wish, is also scheduled to publish in November.—Ed.]—Ben Malczewski, Ypsilanti District Lib., MI

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593763930
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
10/10/2010
Series:
Deep Focus Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
File size:
798 KB

Meet the Author

Sean Howe has worked as an editor for The Criterion Collection and Entertainment Weekly. He is also the editor of Give Our Regards to The Atomsmashers! Writers on Comics, which was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2005. He lives in Brooklyn.

Jonathan Lethem is the author of Chronic City, The Fortress of Solitude, and six other novels. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and many other periodicals. He lives in Brooklyn and Maine.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
Left Bennington College after two years

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They Live 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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