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The Victim of a Prank

April 1, 2008


My favourite April Fools joke is the one told by a young Samuel Beckett at the end of his story “Dante and the Lobster”. The young student Belacqua is taken aback when he learns that the lobster he fetched for his aunt is still alive, and is to be boiled in that condition:

‘But it’s not dead’, protested Belacqua ‘you can’t boil it like that.’
She looked at him in astonishment. Had he taken leave of his senses?
‘Have sense’ she said sharply, ‘lobsters are always boiled alive. They must be.’ She caught up the lobster and laid it on its back. It trembled. ‘They feel nothing’ she said.
In the depths of the sea it had crept into the cruel pot. For hours, in the midst of its enemies, it had breathed secretly. It had survived the Frenchwoman’s cat and his witless clutch. Now it was going alive into scalding water. It had to. Take into the air my quiet breath.
Belacqua looked at the old parchment of her face, grey in the dim kitchen.
‘You make a fuss’ she said angrily ‘and upset me then lash into it for your dinner.’
She lifted the lobster clear of the table. It had about thirty seconds to live.
Well, thought Belcqua, it’s a quick death, God help us all.
It is not.

The punchline to an April Fool’s joke is always “It is not”. Perhaps electricity was playing a premature April Fool’s joke on me on Saturday night when I hopped onto a very tall stage at a barely civilised hour of the night to begin my performance for the Pitter Patter Festival. A boring trendy person earlier in the evening had claimed “there’s gonna be some awesome music coming up”, but elecricity said “It is not”. Or maybe my equipment was participating in an extended version of Earth Hour, which I had participated in, in earnest, earlier in the evening by draining god-knows-what quantity of electricity in order to soundcheck tons of audio equipment — in the dark.

But that’s by the way. I’ll see if things go better on Friday when I take to the stage again to promote my album. Featuring such hits as: My Matey was Inserted in a Futurist’s Iris; Bugger Me in the Shrubbery; and William Hazlitt’s Birthday Supper.

But that’s also by the way. What I want to know is, where have all the fools gone? Where are the jesting ne’er do wells? Where’s Puck? And most importantly, where’s the trickster? In another age, joking might have been a courtly, even stately practice; or it might have been a means of accessing the sacred. Could it really be that pranking now is mostly the business of morons on MTV, office zaniness, or kids beating people up and filming it on their mobile? I  hope not, and that’s why I’d be very grateful to be the vicitm of a great divine prank.


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