Thursday, October 28, 2010

They Live

Kicking off their Deep Focus series, Soft Skull Press has just published They Live, Jonathan Lethem's take on the film by the same name. I haven't read the book, but Douglas Rushkoff has. He provided a couple short excerpts in BoingBoing.

I have, however, seen the movie--and recommend it highly. Made in 1988, it provides a kitschy and prescient commentary on the way we live today.

In They Live, the world is not the colorful, shiny place we think it is. With the help of special sunglasses, a guy called Nada, played by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, sees the real world beneath the Oz Technicolor.

Everything is black and white. Beneath the veneers of ads, magazines, labels, and money are the messages that keep us all hypnotized: OBEY, SLEEP, CONFORM.

Beneath the skins of the beautiful people--the yuppies in suits and shoppers in furs--are skeletal monsters from outerspace.

The best scenes take place when the glasses are on--in the hair salons and shops of this all-too familiar world.

Here's the copy for Lethem's book, "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."

St. Mark's Bookshop has a bunch in stock now. In a time when the ghoulish overlords are brain-washing people into being stupid, fight back by reading books. They help you to see.


  1. I'd like to see the film on a big screen in Tompkins Square Park - is that even possible?

  2. "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum."

    Classic. And I'll pick up the book too...

  3. Don't forget the longest, most protracted, most absurd fight scene in cinematic history!!!!

    I wrote a joke a while back that Ash Wednesday was like They Live for Catholics. You can finally see the papists in our midst.

  4. one of my most ridiculous and favorite movies of all times.
    thanks for mentioning it - thought i was hallucinating this whole time...

  5. Grumber - I was going to write a post about it - but you beat me to it. Just saw the movie again a couple of weeks ago and was thinking just how accurate it was. Too bad Carpenter couldn't take it out of the cheeseball level. But yes, a sad reflection of the world we live in now . .


  6. @City of Strangers - I suspect the 'cheeseball' side is intended - a kind of madcap comic Brechtian self-deconstruction of its own involvement in the spectacle or am I being too generous?


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