Twenty years later, Vale Vale and Company finally return to the land of pranksters with Pranks 2 (RE/Search). These interviews, mostly done by V. Vale himself, illustrate just how deep pranks run in our current cultural milieu — and how far they’ve spread since the last volume (RE/Search #11: Pranks). From the spread of culture jamming and parody to the mainstays of satire and social commentary, pranksterism is standard fare. Heck, just the mainstreaming of the lyrical spoof, which has nearly put Weird Al Yankovic out of business, is proof enough. All of this makes it that much more difficult to shake things up with a good prank. Well, the time has come for the O.G.’s and the current reigning few to get their due.
Veteran pranksters — and repeaters from the first volume — Jello Biafra, John Waters, Frank Discussion, Joey Skaggs, Mark Pauline, and Paul Krassner, are joined by newcomers (newcomers to the book, not necessarily to pranks) The Yes Men, Jihad Jerry, Marc Powell, Ron English, and Bambi Lake, among others. The pranksters in these books have done everything from rearranging billboards (Billboard Liberation Front) and random street happenings (Cacophony Society) to crazy fake news stories (Joey Skaggs) and hijacking CNN and the WTO (The Yes Men), as well as comedy (Paul Krassner), the Web (Marc Powell), and movies (John Waters). No form of media or establishment is safe from these warriors of the mental battlefield, and — with its in-depth interviews, photos and media artifacts — Pranks 2 is the latest and most complete document of their many important exploits.
Jesse Reklaw’s Applicant (Microcosm) is a great prank itself. Reklaw, who does a comic called Slow Wave based on other people’s dreams, found a pile of discarded Ph.D. applications to the biology department of an Ivy League university from the years 1965-1975. These were confidential files with photos and — the most interesting, hilarious part — comments from the interviewers. Reklaw compiled the photos with excerpts from the comments and the results are not only hysterical, but a window to a certain time. Photos of men with comments like, “not facile with arithmetic,” “I can imagine that he could be wearing on constant close exposure,” and “hardly the life-of-the-party type!” Photos of women with remarks such as, “lacks a certain amount of poise,” “certain lack of adventurousness,” “not as physically attractive as some,” and “domestic responsibilities may intervene.” It’s a fun, funny, and revealing little book.
Oh, and while I’m at it, I just got Steve Aylett‘s new book, And Your Point Is? Scorn and Meaning in Jeff Lint’s Fiction (out now on Raw Dog Screaming Press). Aylett’s last book was a biography of the cult science fiction author. This time around, he’s compiled a collection of critical essays about Lint’s work. No slouch in the world of science fiction, Aylett has made it his mission to get out the word about Lint’s writing, and this collection spans the globe and decades of study. Lint’s ubiquitous caustic wit and nihilistic humor make it no mystery why Aylett is such a champion of his writings. If you like either, this book is a must.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.