They Live” — An Update

Even though I mentioned it in the original posting, I wanted to add that the website Io9 has a new review of the book, “They Live” by Jonathan Lethem, here, a critical examination of the 1988 John Carpenter movie of the same name that I wrote about here. I didn’t examine the book in that posting, but I’ve learned some things about it that I want to bring to my readers’ attention.

The book has received a number of very good reviews:

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

I’ve added it to my Amazon wishlist, which I should have done back when I first posted.

The following is a sample of the writing:

They’re appalling, that’s what they are. Walking disasters. Flayed, scalded, piebald, grimacing, corrupted, robotic, evoking syphilis-victim scare-photos from teenage health-ed nightmares, yet somehow accusatory, defiant inside their disguises, the ghouls present no limit of affront to a healthy construction-worker’s eye. They looked burnt, yet gooey. They’re also – how to say this? – affrontingly cheapo (eventually we’ll even notice in their ghoul-hands what looks like the wrinkling of rubber dishwashing gloves, and so this may be another reason for the black-and-white, better to mask low-budget inadequacies). This fact frees a certain relieving hilarity yet also synthesizes with our revulsion: Something this skeezy is ruling my world? Something this ludicrous is freaking me out? (The virtuosity of Carpenter’s mise-en-scène ensures it is.) The first to turn to the camera and say, more or less, ‘Fuck you lookin’ at? is this silver-haired, foxy older gentleman of obvious privilege referred to in the credits as “Well-Dressed Customer”; his sustained, withering ghoul-glare as he purchases his magazine (with dollars that confess THIS IS YOUR GOD) is one of They Live’s icons, an instant that punches a spooky hole in time. Nada hasn’t located his voice yet, so we’re left undistracted, or unconsoled, by any cheese-dip-Brazilian-plastic-surgery-perfume-on-a-pig one-liners. What’s brilliantly guaranteed is how totally we’d loathe this guy anyway; you may not be going home in your BMW and Rolex to soak in your Jacuzzi, but he certainly is. So, already brewing within our terror is a lavish contempt, one that finds satisfaction at the rotten-corpse visage before us. Any rich guy who’s every glowered at us like we didn’t belong somewhere – an outdoor magazine rack, for chrissakes! – really ought to look as sick on the outside as we’re certain he is in his soul. I’m fucking looking at you, man! Nada’s not quite there, but he’s just a step away.

Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2010-2021 Terry O'Brien / Arisian Enterprises All Rights Reserved

Skip to toolbar