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The Advanced Genius Theory: Are They Out of Their Minds or Ahead of Their Time?

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  334 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Let the debate begin...


The Advanced Genius Theory, hatched by Jason Hartley and Britt Bergman over pizza, began as a means to explain why icons such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Sting seem to go from artistic brilliance in their early careers to "losing it" as they grow older. The Theory proposes that they don’t actually lose it, but rather, their work simply advances be
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Scribner (first published April 28th 2010)
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Sep 30, 2010 Casey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't until I read the Klosterman foreward that I remembered his Esquire column on Advanced Theory. The column was confusing so it's helpful having the theory explained here by one of the pizza-fueled creators (so I won't try and explain it myself). The book is a fun pop-culture read and zips through many notable musicians, filmmakers, actors, and artists of the later half of the 20th Century.

It seems like disagreeing with the (sometimes arbitrary) theory is part of the fun considering it is
Ray Charbonneau
A college bull session strung out to book length. It's, to use it's own terms, highly Overt. The thesis is sheer, 100% BS, but entertaining nonetheless. And the conclusion that we're better off looking for reasons to like, rather than reasons to dismiss, is good however you get to it.
Aug 22, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a fun book in which Hartley uses a few criteria to determine artistic geniuses, mostly in the world of music. The criteria: (1) You must have done great work for more than fifteen years. (2) You must have alienated your original fans. (3) You must be completely unironic. (4)You must be unpredictable. (5) You must "lose it". Spectacularly.

Hartley picks out Lou Reed and Bob Dylan as prime examples of advanced geniuses. It's amusing to see what other artists Harley chooses, and how he justifie
Mar 08, 2011 Ben rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2011
The author excludes women from his theory with the exception of two where on the bubble of being advanced. In all other places, women were either trivial supports for men or completely ignored in the following realms: stage, screen, writers, fine artists, & sports. The author uses the ignorance excuse for music (advancement might be just more of a male thing), but he fails to give any excuses for why women were not considered in the other realms. As such, his theory is flawed and incomplete.
Nov 13, 2012 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if Brian Wilson's lost rap track, "Smart Girls," isn't awful, but just so brilliant beyond our grasp that we are below and cannot accept it? Jason Hartley's The Advanced Genius Theory: Are They Out of Their Minds or Ahead of Their Time? covers this and many other similar pop culture queries. While I absolutely do not agree with these sentiments, this was a really fun read.
This was a tough book to read as I was very interested in a theory that purported to examine why geniuses often do things which are confusing to the public at large. Unfortunately, it's one long opinion on who the most Advanced (author's capitalization) artists of recent generations are, mostly focusing on rock and roll musicians. Hartley is dismissive of critics (though he is one) and his criteria for Advancement, muddily explained early, often fails as his actual criteria for Advancing someone ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Sunil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Despite its claims otherwise, it's hard not to see this "theory" having a veneer of irony. Still, the bit about Foo Fighters being the "Mike & The Mechanics of grunge" made me lose it for a moment, to my fellow train-car passengers' late-night-commute irritation. For some reason the book strikes me as just a tad bit dated, even though it was only published in 2010; this is probably a personal thing, however, as I was reading a lot of Klosterman around the time The Advanced Genius Theory was ...more
This book is a fun and interesting read, especially for those who are interested in pop culture...ok, it is geared ONLY toward those who like pop culture (and maybe those who kinda like philosophy). Hartley is a good writer and his voice is so appealing in this book that it feels like he is a good friend, one whose opinions count and can be trusted.

I do think that there's some value in this theory, one that essentially labels artists as either Overt or Advanced. I like that he presents an anti-e
Fun. An ideal book for the bookcase in the loo, if I could bring myself to have one.

Remember the movie "High Fidelity"? Where John Cusack and Jack Black were forever naming top 5 lists? I'm sure they're "overt", in the language of this book, but the book itself feels a bit like that movie. A guy has come up with a theory that justifies his continuing to have faith in his heroes whose later work is...well, unappreciated, perhaps. He argues that Dylan, Lou Reed, etc have continued to be innovativ
Jan 02, 2014 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun book. I was engaged, aside from a few bits of incorrect info imparted (Clover backed up Elvis Costello on My Aim Is True and the Chicago Bears have never worn black uniforms). Still, the Advanced Theory is a fun concept to use in discussions with friends about, most often, musicians. There seems to be a cheekiness to it all that I really appreciate. And Hartley does cop to his own biases - Costello is most likely Advanced, but he can't say for certain due to his own "lukewarm reac ...more
Jul 08, 2011 Phyllis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very fun book. It is not to be taken seriously. First book in a long time that literally had me laughing out loud every several sentences.

I suspect there are lots of others who could enjoy this book a lot more than I was capable of. I don't know nearly as much as I perhaps should about musicians and bands, and certainly not movie directors/producers and athletes. So there are a lot of references that went right over my head. But I love books and music and movies and sporting events, an
Dustin Sullivan
"...those of us who believe in Advancement don't unquestioningly embrace our idols, they have to earn our respect first. And once that is earned, we don't just abandon the relationship when they do something we don't understand, we try to understand it."

The theory is that when an artistic genius alienates their fan-base and is considered "past their prime," the truth may be that they are actually ahead of their time and still producing quality work. The two strongest cases given for this theory
Dad Hartley
Sep 20, 2010 Dad Hartley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best written books I've seen in a very long time. The author has a very distinctive almost conversational tone to his writing. Controversial yes but isn't that what art is supposed to be? Anyone who loves music is going to take something away from reading it. Since finishing the book I have re-listened to some of my favorites artists that on first listen did not seem particularly interesting. I know now that was because I was expecting the same music I had enjoyed for years. ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Sean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a tremendously frustrating book, but by the end I was glad to have read it. Think of a bird pecking oats out of horse manure. The oats are bits of critical insight, some of them genuinely useful. The manure would be the Advanced Genius Theory, which posits that some artists are too brilliant to produce poor work. The idea that everything's good and it's just a matter of how much is liberating; the details of the Theory are dopey, arbitrary, and intrusive. The author's comment that he di ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Libby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started to rate this book four stars just because I don't care for Lou Reed, and because I couldn't understand why Brian Eno was given attention while Bryan Ferry, who is clearly (or nearly) Advanced, wasn't. Then I realized I was being Overt. But part of the fun in Advanced Genius Theory is the potential for imagining debates about nominees. The creators of the Advanced Genius Theory have tapped into something important. And if I'm wrong and it's not important, it's still an entertaining and ...more
Daniel Nelson
Sep 07, 2010 Daniel Nelson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
This book has an interesting topic and premise, however I found it difficult to fully embrace it's message as it seemed the author was really just trying to outsmart himself by presenting an intellectual topic.

I'd recommend this book more as one you pick up from time to time to read select pages or passages. I found reading it cover to cover to be more tedious, at least for my tastes and preferences in literature. I think it's best treated as a reference book that you can pick and choose what yo
Sep 11, 2010 Marcia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book. The author gives criteria for different types of genius, explains why some people would not be so classified, and gives many examples. The main weakeness is that most of the examples are musicians. Since music can be very subjective, the reader may not agree with many of the examples. It seems to me that the author decided on a few people who were geniuses and then decided on the criteria and more examples. It is a book that makes a person think.
Jun 01, 2011 Ralph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jason's theory -- on which he spends the first 50 pages explaining -- is less fun than his actual clever critiques of pop-culture icons. In fact, the parts about Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, the primary inspirations for the theory, are less interesting than his opinions of the Beatles (Paul is the most "Advanced"), Prince, Elvis and a one sentence mention of the Foo Fighters ("the Mike and the Mechanics of grunge"). That's the good stuff.
What should be a humorous "theory," that extremely talented entertainers who show a marked decline in the quality of their output, or produce later output that alienates their earlier fans (Sting, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed) have actually become so talented that their output is too advanced for their "overt" fans, is taken way too seriously by the author. Even if the theory is true, who cares? No amount of "advancement" is going to get me to like Ten Summoner's Tales or Metal Machine Music.
Sep 21, 2010 Terri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never gave much thought to why I like music/or dislike some music, but after reading The Advanced Genius Theory...I look at music, actors, etc. in a whole different light. The author encourages the reader to listen/watch in a different context. I find myself going back & giving some music, especially, a second chance and hey, some artists now do have something to offer that I did not see before. Energizing!
Joe Long
Feb 19, 2014 Joe Long rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're ready to look at the works of some of your favorite artists who you think have lost it with fresh eyes, and look at most art with fresh eyes, this is a really fun book. Jason does a great job outlining the theory that begins as laughable and ends as something that, at its very least, is a blast to discuss with like minded friends. I won't go into any more detail here, but ask me about it and I promise an entertaining discussion.

Feb 25, 2011 Chelsea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I couldn't get through this book. The premise sounded really fun to me. I'm totally a pop-culture and media junkie, so books like this are usually right up my ally. I just couldn't get into it at all though. I didn't hate it while I was reading it, but I got bored after about 10 pages every time I sat down to read. Probably a great book for people with a vast bank of musical knowledge, but not for me. I would have preferred a magazine article on this topic instead.
Danny Volt
Well-developed expansion on the original Klosterman concept (which I thought was an inspired theme, but unfinished — and unlike a lot of similar Chuck Stuff, went nowhere all over the place).

"Advanced Genius" is a quick read, and can make someone interpret artistic legends in a unique way. But it's only one level beyond overrated/underrated, and not as fun.
Sep 20, 2010 Camille rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Mr. Hartley's theory is an interesting and liberating way of viewing your favorite artists and their contributions. The advanced genius theory is so convincing that you'll find yourself testing it on each and every artist you know. This book is quite humorous and is a must-read for anyone who loves music or the arts. I highly recommend it.
Oct 06, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely hilarious, and right up my alley in every way, not to mention truly insightful. Given me a whole new (brilliant) framework to view genius in. Fantastic discussion material. Highly recommended.
Apr 08, 2014 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and engaging. The lack of female subjects was disappointing as was the author's supposition that women cannot become Advanced. I wonder how long I will categorize things as Overt or Advanced.
Ben Carpenter
Jul 20, 2012 Ben Carpenter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

a good book for anyone tired of the hipster (overt) mentality that values the art you reject over the art you love. definitely worth the read for someone who's ever been disappointed by their favorite singer/director/artist.
Phil Simon
Nov 22, 2011 Phil Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise: these people move beyond us. Yet, I thought that the focus was a little concentrated on Dylan and Reed. I would like to have seen a few more instances. Great pop culture references.
Mark Sinnott
As someone who considers themselves a full-blown music snob, I was happy to see that there are people out there who think about these artists the way that I do. Even if I don't agree with all of the assessments presented in this book, I enjoyed looking at others' opinions of pop-culture.
Tom Fuchs
Slightly interesting, often infuriating. Not spectacularly well-written, but I don't disagree with the premise entirely.
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Jason Hartley is a writer, musician, and online marketer based in Decatur, Georgia. Originally from Columbia, SC, Hartley's career has been as varied and unpredictable as some of the luminaries he writes about. His artistic and professional endeavors have taken him from the study of dance and choreography at the American Dance Festival, Dance Space Inc., and Movement Research, to professional cata ...more
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