LA Review of Books: This American Gothic

By Eric Been
Los Angeles Review of Books

Dery_Bad coverMARK DERY’S WORK IS BAT-SHIT CRAZY — in the best possible way. Though a brief scan of his output might lead one to mistake the cultural critic for a mere artifact of the cyberculture-chattering class — those techno-savvy theorists in the late twentieth century who rallied around things like Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto,” the “cyberdelic” magazine Mondo 2000, and Jean Baudrillard’s theories of hyperreality — Dery, to be sure, was one of the brightest and original extrapolators of subcultures sprouting up in the salad days of cyberpunks and Netscape. In 1990, he penned for The New York Times a sprawling feature on “culture jamming” — the concept of messing with consumer culture with dissident messages for the sake of exposing, as he put it, how corporations “use the media as a tool of behavior modification.” (Think spray painting “Profits” on a Coca-Cola billboard under its “Enjoy” tagline, or, if one’s inclined, what the goggles reveal in the John Carpenter film, They Live).

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