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Lethem exfoliates John Carpenter’s 1988 classic amalgam of deliberate B-movie, sci-fi, horror, anti-Yuppie agitprop 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.
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