Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I came across a quote in a biography of Marcel Proust that is germane to our discussion: "This voluntary subjugation is the beginning of freedom. There is no better way to become aware of what one feels oneself than by trying to re-create in oneself that which a master has experienced. In this profound effort that we make, it is our own way of thinking, together with the master's, that we bring to light." Proust made a habit of worshipping people ("voluntary subjugation"), then distancing himself from them, then using what he learned to create his own unique set of aesthetics. He was certainly flawed--I would never go to him for dating advice--but I bring this up because the Advanced theory deals with many artists who have started their careers consciously rejecting (not necessarily explicitly, but certainly within their work) their idols but then eventually come back around to embrace them. Bob Dylan is a great example. He started out wanting to be Elvis, then Woody Guthrie, and eventually became something of both, which was an entirely unique and authentic creation: Bob Dylan. This goes to the heart of the Advanced Theory, which says that doing the opposite of what is expected is just as easy as doing what is expected. Evolving the way that Bob Dylan (or Proust) did, makes an artist difficult to understand, but they are ultimately much more interesting than those who either reject their heroes or mimic them.