There's a lot about home on The Life of the World to Come.

I spent about a year in grad school working on a thesis show that became a look at place and location-based identity. This was a show that definitely owed something to being written primarily in January 2002, as pointed a time in history as any during my young life. I wrote songs about being oblivious to my surroundings and about white American privilege that had been recently shattered/redefined (though I didn't know that the latter was what I was doing until, perhaps, today). I got pretty obsessed with the idea that where you come from, geographically, can often be a defining characteristic. And also, that the disintegration of traditional neighborhoods means that so many of my peers pick new apartments about as often as purchasing a new winter coat, and using the same coach-shopping criteria (what's the cheapest thing I can get that also looks cool?). Home as identity seems to be, in my opinion, a disappearing notion. And it's also something that I long for.

So on this album, Darnielle writes songs about creating homes for those who need them. He instructs, "tell them no one's going to hurt them here." Here's a guy who has made no secret (at least since The Sunset Tree, if not before) of his abusive childhood brought on by his stepfather, and it would be easy to connect the dots from a broken sense of home and family to writing songs about, well, inventing a new family, if needed. "I used to live. Here."

I do think that this kind of reliance on biography, while useful, doesn't dig deeper. I think that there's more going on here, because no writer as talented as Darnielle takes the easy way out (or if they do, it's in small doses, not an entire album's worth). And I've spent only three days with this album, so I won't claim that I've got it all figured out.

But here's the thing: JD is tricksy. Pumping this album full of Christianity and daring a listener to deal with bible-verses-as-titles subverts the norm in today's indie rock culture in a similar way that "Like a Prayer" shook the mainstream twenty years ago. In the late 80's, Madonna caused quite the stir; but in the late aughts, the rock fan equivalent of being up in arms is simply crossed arms and a raised eyebrow, Stephen Colbert calling Darnielle out on his Comedy Central show.

We get the biblical stuff easily, because it's right there. But you've got this stuff about place and home as well, below the surface. And in "Genesis 3:23," when he tells the story of breaking in to a former home, moving room to room, and punctuating the song with "I used to live. Here," perhaps we've got the key to the whole thing. It's the first single, and the easiest to sing along to--and maybe it completes this circle. Maybe what he's telling us is, "look, I used to live here, in this religion, in these beliefs, in this line of thinking," a song that subverts the overall theme of the record and then simultaneously serves as a metaphor for the entire thing.




I’m excited about listening to this album more. My goal is to listen to nothing else this week (excepting podcasts, possibly), in the interest of full immersion. Lets hope it doesn’t hurt me too much--after all, Darnielle’s lyrics certainly don’t prettify the room (or rather, if they do, it’s a tragic kind of pretty, the last photo taken of the prom couple before the prom king drunkenly drives his car into a tree)--but y’know. I’ll be careful.


banksy image via denial_land on flickr

Some things!

--In an attempt to have posts look uniform, I am going to try to have a photo and an eventual read more link in far more of my posts now. Whee!

(can you see how exciting this post's gonna be?)(I bet you can't wait for more!)

--I wrote about 800 words tonight. Not online--SIMPLY TO WRITE! This is astounding to me.

--And scary because I know it's lame to start with my childhood but I'm going with the "just write, sort it later" mentality It's always worked before, and I believe in it deeply.

--There's actually, perhaps a story in what I was writing. Somewhere anyway. And that's also quite exciting. Because I do believe I will be applying for grad school in writing within a year or so, and uh, that means writing samples, eh?

--I would totally apply this year, to start fall of next, but the lack of samples and current letters of rec would be challenging. As would the GRE-taking and fee-paying.

--I am listening to tonight, exciting in and of itself, but also I'm delighted to report that it's over wifi, on my netbook, through VLC. Computers are awesome.

--So is jolicloud. Seriously, it just works. And for Linux on an Asus EEE PC 900, that's pretty amazing.

--I've taken three sick days in a row, which is something I maybe have done one other time in the 2.5 years I've had a job with that many sick hours. It's crazy. More on that in a second.

--I've never been sure what genre I would want to study for writing, even though I'd like a 3 year program. Isn't that odd? And now I think maybe even creative non-fiction even though I think terms like that are actually fictional.


So the being sick thing.

It was really bad. By the second full day off, I essentially was in bed all day, only pausing for more liquids and to pee.

But the main thing it did was slow me down. A lot. Things got very basic (in my head: "okay it's 1pm so you have to eat" or "it's a good idea to drink more of something."), but it also upset me when I got caught up in reading about MA programs so I wanted to write or at least look up specific program info, and I simply didn't have the energy.

I was able to see what scarce ability looked like, and that was a bit game-changing for me. I feel like this week has taken so long, and in such a good way, despite being sick, because it really just became about setting myself up for successfully getting healthy again.

Weeks can always feel this long, if I just wasn't stuck online all the time, if I was writing, doing the right things, for me. I see a lot more of that now, and I'm so glad.

I'm excited about a new adventure! It's starting soon. Maybe even tonight.

I'll edit tomorrow, so apologies for any weirdness. It's time for sleeping!