“You took a swing at the Market Street flautist last night. The air was tight and you sort of missed. You wipe your hand on your club tie as you lean on the cashpoint and your breath steams the screen showing insufficient funds to complete this transaction. You try extending your overdraft but your phone’s dead because you haven’t got an iPhone 6 yet and you wonder why the flautist called you gay.”
So begins The Fall of a BNOC, which reads as both a satire of and a love letter to St Andrews. Relatable and pitiful, the main character fails to launch a successful Vic night and struggles for likes on Instagram, tribulations framed by a Bell Street house party and his debit card being declined at Ma Bells. It is a version of our uni heightened to comical proportions, a commiserative mockery of our nightly endeavours.
Such a tale is common on Shiteshead Revisited. The blog, founded in 2014, quickly became one of the most popular sites in town, read and referenced by students from every year. Notable for its wry depiction of stereotypical St Andrean culture, SR officiates the marriage between satire and tragicomedy. The author’s hapless, social-climbing protagonists strive to be seen with the right people, wear the right club ties, be photographed at the right events. They network and overanalyse and stumble their way through a litany of familiar addresses and pubs. Whether one emphasises or sympathises with them, they act as entertaining centrepieces to this Oscar Wildian rendition of Market Street.
SR as we know it began several May Balls ago, when the author posted a well-curated selection of photographs from the event, captioned with his own droll observations. Titled “The Best, Worst Dressed, and Most On Drugs”, the post was anonymously emailed to 80 individuals. By that night, it had been read by nearly two thousand people. Looking back, the author muses that these things begin with “the kind of intimacy where you assume you know personally everyone who is reading your work, and then you overhear students from Durham talking about it on an East Coast train.” He attributes the sudden popularity of the blog, specifically of that post, to its relatability: “Here, rudeness is probably the highest form of intimacy. So if someone you know is getting parodied on the internet, you send it around.”
This brand of self-deprecation is not uncommon in St Andrews. Collectively we mock table ballots and launch events, yet hundreds queue for Christmas Ball tickets or try their luck at donning a dirndl for Oktoberfest. Equal parts participants and observers, St Andrews students unsurprisingly derive enjoyment from Shiteshead’s self-aware representations of their peers. “How to Die in the Union,” in particular, encapsulates the author’s sardonic remark on the newly built Club 601: “The beauty of being in the Union is that it’s the only place in town where you can’t see the Union.”
The characters themselves are ultimately fictional, however traces of the author’s reality inevitably influence his writing. The posts, as he explains, are often written away from St Andrews, giving him a sense of literal and metaphorical distance from the people and places he depicts. He attributes the blog’s earliest beginnings to his own existential thoughts whilst on a spring break sailing trip, thoughts that would become the inspiration for Shiteshead’s cognisant narratives of the so-called Life.
Reminiscent of Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, a series of books that reflect on the triviality of upper-class English life, Shiteshead Revisited seeks not to encourage its readers to emulate its subjects, but rather to recognise the futility of their actions and the emptiness of the alleged world that they inhabit. Because despite what Instagrams and Facebook albums may imply, no one could possibly enjoy Ma Bells that much. It’s just good self-marketing.