I finished my article on biblical interpretation in the songbook of The Mountain Goats a couple of weeks ago, and since a couple of people from the tMG web forums had been very helpful and interested, I contacted one of them — Nigel — and asked if he’d like a squint at the final product. He liked the essay a lot, and suggested that I share it with the rest of the forum; I was a little abashed about putting up a post that said (to a longstanding forum constituency with a core group whose strong sense of mutual affiliation sometimes risks generating in-group vs out-group dynamics), “Hey, everyone, come read what I wrote.” Nigel thought it still ought to be shared with the forum, so he wrote a positive summary of my essay and suggested that other forum members contact me for a copy.
Since then, a steady stream of forum members has followed up with requests for copies, many more than I expected. I’m glad of that not just because I like it when people read my stuff, but also because “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”: I don’t know the tMG corpus well enough to survey all 500-600 of the songs in their repertoire, and some forum members have been listening to tMG since before their first recordings in 1991 — so by running the essay past a number of forum members, I could be spared the embarrassment of overlooking some important (but neglected) fact. Thus far, no one has had a complaint more problematic than noting the misspelling of the street name in one quoted portion of lyrics. Whew!
The forum’s approbation is all the more comforting to me because I’ve spent twenty-plus years learning how to write fluently as a biblical scholar/hermeneutician, but I’ve never publicly written a piece of music criticism. Having seen numerous occasions when academics produced articles or presentations which did little more than say, “Here’s a band I like ”n” I think this song is really good. You should listen to it. Oh, and this one too. Listen, she mentions Jesus in this one.” Since I’m fierce with my students about composing papers that make a real argument, I fretted a lot about whether my tMG paper would amount to much more than “You may not have heard of the Mountain Goats, but I think they’re really good, so there.” Again, the first readers have affirmed that the essay has a real argument and doesn’t fall into “Look, here”-ism.
Now I’m thinking about stretching out to cover some other topics — but not till after I finish the James commentary and begin, at least, to write out my most recent argument about hermeneutics. But it]s fun, as always, to have think-y thinks going on, and to sense an area where my observations can enrich a discourse by a little bit. Oh, and if you’d like a copy of my final draft, I’ll be happy to share it with you, too. (You know: my nickname at disseminary.org, or akm dot adam via gmail).