Admittedly, the Advanced Theory had unpretentious beginnings: Jason Hartley and Britt Bergman invented the concept in 1990 at a Columbia, South Carolina, Pizza Hut. From those fast-food ruminations, however, grew a great hypothesis, perhaps best expressed by Chuck Klosterman, who wrote the foreword for this book: "When a genius does something that appears idiotic, it does not necessarily mean he suddenly sucks. What it might mean is that he's doing something you cannot understand, because he has Advanced beyond you." With that insight, you can take the great leap forward into this provocative and (let's admit it) extremely entertaining paperback original. Editor's recommendation.
Fans of any art form or entertainment-especially music-have seen at least one beloved favorite's youthful brilliance, with time, turn to embarrassing self-parody. What pop culture writer Hartley proposes is that their genius hasn't faded-it's just outstripped the public's ability to appreciate. Though it can feel a bit tongue-in-cheek, Hartley gently advances his "Advanced Genius Theory" with rigor, enthusiasm, and a game sense of (re-)discovery. Eschewing the snide critical distance that many fans take for granted, Hartley gives the artist in question the benefit of the doubt: if we accept that Lou Reed, for example, was a musical genius in his youth, are we even qualified to say he's lost his brilliance as he's gotten older? (Regarding George Lucas, Hartley submits: "The fact is, Jar Jar Binks is no better or worse than Chewbacca. Just ask your dad.") Defining his terms clearly ("Advanced" geniuses must have alienated their original fans and lost much of their popularity), he proceeds through key aspects and examples of his theory, including the ideas of "Overt" achievement and "Irritants," the "most advanced musicians of all time" (Bob Dylan and Lou Reed), and the Advanced success story of Steve Martin. Though it should ignite many debates over whether your current favorite is Overt or Advanced, it also shows that, in either case, there's more pleasure to be found when one keeps an open mind.
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Advancement is a profoundly optimistic way to experience art, and that’s what makes it difficult to accept; it requires a flexible mind, a certain kind of intellectual humility, and a willingness to disregard what initially seems obvious. But once you let your mind slide in the advanced direction, it can never slide back. Not totally. Things will always sound a little different … and a little better.” —From the Foreword by Chuck Klosterman
“Advancement scholars do not foster a spirit of inquiry. It's really just a way for Advancement proponents to appreciate shitty music by people they consider to be nonshitty. It allows you to engage with Lou Reed's music from the 1980s, but not the Hooters or the Outfield [not true! I love ‘And We Danced.’–JH]. This entire theory is shackled by a Heisenbergian principle of self-consciousness.” —Rob Sheffield
"Hartley gently advances his "Advanced Genius Theory" with rigor, enthusiasm, and a game sense of (re-)discovery. Eschewing the snide critical distance that many fans take for granted, Hartley gives the artist in question the benefit of the doubt."--Publishers Weekly