Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vampires and Zombies Welcome Arthur Lemay to the Undead

We agree with Arthur Lemay. A 50th reunion is a great time to pull a prank on your former classmates. We don't, however, think his prank was a very good idea.

In a ruse Mark Twain might have concocted, Lemay, a retired management consultant from Northern California, circulated his own obituary on a Harvard '59 e-mail listserv last month, then sat back and watched classmates' reactions.

"Arthur knew he was dying as early as September of 2007," began the death notice, which was signed by Lemay's wife and posted in late January. Ascribing his death to kidney failure while vacationing in the Caribbean, it contained descriptive touches such as: "He loved to play roles: the agent provocateur, the crazed right-winger, the insane bomber..." According to his wife, Lemay also left behind five postings intended to be shared posthumously. "Communications from the grave," she called them.
That's when the responses started to pour in on their communal list serv. Some former classmates talked about the great respect they had for Lemay. Some even left tributes to him in the form of famous lines of poetry. Once some messages started to pop up explaining what a pain others found Lemay to be, Lemay revealed the hoax to his classmates.
"I have to eat humble pie and admit it was very silly and stupid of me to do this," wrote Lemay, promising to be less confrontational in future postings. Or, as he put it, to become a "more philosophical person who has genuinely buried the old Arthur."

He also said the death of a close friend, coupled with a near-death experience of his own, had given him the idea for posting the obit.
Although many were aghast over Lemay's prank, still a few found it fitting to think philosophically about Lemay's death and undeath. In truest Harvard form, comparisons were made to both literature, old popular culture and poetry to help understand attribute Lemay's inspiration. As we believe Thomas Edison once put it, "Pranks are 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent resurrection."

[Boston Globe]

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