A couple things came together in my head to create this post: mostly O Best Beloved’s perennial confusion as to what exactly I studied in college and a late night of listening to too much Titus Andronicus.
(That’s the band, not a recording of the Shakespeare play, just so we’re all clear. I’d have italicized it if I meant the play, obviously!)
So let’s start with what I studied in college. Other than the exact metric fluid capacity of my stomach, as measured in Imperial Standard PBRs, what I learned in undergrad was mostly what they call “critical reading” skills.
O Best Beloved remains confused by these. She calls the papers I wrote “playing DaVinci code,” and if you’ve ever read critical literature you know what she’s talking about. You read between the lines, you find these weird clues, and BAM! you’ve proven that Shakespeare was a lesbian Eskimo from Trenton, NJ.
(Remind me some day and I’ll explain to you all how Princess Celestia, of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fame, is clearly Milton’s Satan. True story.)
So that’s one thing that was on my mind. The other was the rather excellent sort-of-concept album by Titus Andronicus, The Monitor, which is sort of three parts Green Day to one part Ken Burns’s The Civil War soundtrack.
Pitchfork’s review of it kind of speaks for itself. It is every bit as DaVinci code as my infernal ponies theory (seriously, it’s there!). Says reviewer Rob Mitchum:
In the end, the Civil War is just a recurring theme, and one that’s more personal than political. For stadium-rock inspiration, Titus Andronicus look no further than their home-state hero, paraphrasing Bruce Springsteen in the first song and name-checking him in the last. And while the central muse is obvious, there’s a full menu of influences on display. There’s the Hold Steady in its mythology of intoxication, the Pogues in its cathartic singalong gutter-punk, and Conor Oberst’s Desaparacidos in its brazen earnestness. There’s also the fatalistic fuck-all of early Replacements and the brutalist thrashing of east-coast hardcore in its violent instrumentation and apocalyptic worldview.
He goes on to poetically conclude:
Catharsis is [singer] Stickles’ fuel, and The Monitor is a 65-minute endorsement of angst and opposition as the best way to present that combustible sorrow: Light it with footlights, throw a giant shadow against the back wall, and rock the fuck out of it.
I sort of have to wonder if this is how O Best Beloved feels sometimes. I mean, I like the album just fine, but I’m not sure I can listen to, say, the opening track (posted below so you can give it a try too) and get Bruce Springsteen, the Hold Steady, the Pogues, and Desaparacidos out of it. Extrapolating a detailed emotional level is even further beyond me.
But I’m okay with this. It gives me comfort to know that other English majors have found secure employment connecting the dots with very, very long lines. The shortest distance between two points is sometimes across a few thousand years and maybe just around the bend from an Oxford concordance or two.
Know any employed English majors? Got strong feelings on Titus Andronicus or the possibility that Princess Celestia is in fact the Great Satan? You know where the Comment button is…