December 4th, 2013 / 8:38 pm

Artist Temperaments




It is not just an artist’s work, but their personalities — inadvertent, performative, implied, affected, whatever — by which an overall narrative, or “personal brand,” of the artist is measured, which invariably informs how the art is perceived. Do likeable people make likeable art, and vice versa? Is it better to be an arrogant genius than a modest one? At what point is arrogance reasonable? One hates to reduce art-making to the two binaries presented, but this seems to be the case: What you think of yourself, and what others think of you. (Also, notice, for e.g., Eddie Vedder on the mediocre side. I am not saying he’s mediocre. I’m saying he’s almost a genius. Your head is comprised of grey matter; may it host a grey zone) — and this is all grossly subjective and was distractedly assembled while this contributor was at work, in a cast (broken hand, bike accident), with low blood sugar due to manorexic tendencies (no breakfast, salad for lunch), and I know there’s not enough women and minorities represented, and that this is all rather mainstream, so if you point that out, I’ll know that you didn’t finish reading this ¶. Cheers, to the people who touch us.


  1. elias tezapsidis

      needs more women…

      sorry. this is v interesting. kinda disagree on mia and morrissey

      & giggles in re: mr. white hat of bonfires

  2. Electric Cereal

      Some of these don’t make sense.

      Virginia Woolf thumbing her nose at Joyce does not seem modest. Although I’d also give much more credit to her genius than this.

      Tupac being behind Minaj, Chingy, MIA, and Busta Rhymes on genius. I mean is equal to Usher wtf.

      Sontag, Lauren Hill, and Prince aren’t arrogant? Still like them but that has never been said about them.

      Beckett is only slightly a genius?

      Drake more of a genius than Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, and equal to Run DMC?

      Cobain ahead of every musician? By god, The Beatles. Cobain himself is turning over in his grave.

      Other than that this was cool to look at. Good concept. Other cool measurements could be marriages, drugs, sex, money.

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  4. viktor askew

      ah, the arrogant mediocrity of david lee roth.

  5. A D Jameson

      This proves what I’ve been saying for years—that John Updike is the Marilyn Manson of lit.

  6. alanrossi

      on the “genius side” for the writers it’s like mostly maximalists (or, whatever, you know). like no “real” minimalist made it over there. not that i think they should, just noticing.

      you probably should do this with only alive writers and then have the mediocres compete against the geniuses in trivial pursuit, the 100 yard dash, boggle, and a game of basketball with modified 8 ft hoops for “artists.”

  7. Jimmy Chen

      looking back, i will concede that tupac is more genius than chingy. i plotted each artist intuitively, without comparing their relation to others, so were one to read it literally/linearly (i.e. who’s in front of whom) then we might find ‘problems,’ though the perception of objective discrepancies are impossible in a subjective context.

      i’m not saying drake is more genius than lil wayne; i’m saying the latter is a lil putz who can’t freestyle. i saw him trying to freestyle on TRL (via youtube) and all he did was recite existing lyrics.

  8. Jimmy Chen

      i went to iffy lube and rotated my tired. i read infinite jest. i’m not saying DFW is the second most genius writer ‘of all times,’ only in the small sampling

  9. BrianAllenCarr


  10. lorian long

      ‘wholeheartedly’ agree with eminem’s placement

  11. Neil Griffin

      My brain said “bullshit” when I first saw where he was placed. But after 15 seconds I was on board.

  12. reynard seifert

      i would add whitman, death grips, and jay reatard, on a locus from genius to modesty

  13. reynard seifert

      also the shaggs should clearly occupy the bottom center of all three graphs

  14. Rauan Klassnik

      would like to see one of these featuring “alt lit,” “indie lit,” and other contemporary writers… Tao Lin, Blake Butler, Steve Roggenbuck, Jereme Dean, Gabby Bess, Marie Calloway, Penny Goring, Sam Pink, Matt Bell, Seth Abramson, etc, etc,….

  15. Citric

      this is completely preposterous someone take this down & ban jimmy chen from posting again

  16. Owen Kaelin

      Wow. This one clears lots of things up for me. Yay for science!

  17. Andrew Colville

      jimmy did you start with the outliers when graphing

  18. rdm24

      I assume each panel is on a different scale. After all, other than Biz Markie, I don’t think any of those hip-hop or rap artists could be considered “modest”.

  19. deadgod

      I don’t think a “modest” artist would bother anyone else with their work; ‘to show’ entails ‘to arrogate’. Maybe a more disclosive polarity would be from ‘pompous/haughty’ to ‘diffident’.

  20. deadgod

      Indeed. This thing is what finally killed Mandela.

  21. LoganRapp

      For where Hunter S is alone, I know Chen is just pulling these data points out of his ass.

  22. LoganRapp

      You put Franzen ahead of Thompson and McCarthy on the genius scale. I have no respect for your opinion.

  23. postitbreakup

      i think the corrections is fantastic and i liked freedom a lot, but franzen more genius than burroughs etc.? nah

  24. laura

      Modest Mouse isn’t a person

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  26. Robbie Bruens

      Miles Davis, less of a genius than Syd Barrett. O…K

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  31. JoeyBagels

      This is stupid.I like Pearl Jam, but Eddie Vedder is no where near genius. Dylan and Morrissey are close though. Of the writers listed, only Faulkner truly comes close to genius, but there are many fine writers on the chart. But Updike wasn’t mediocre and Roth is not modest.

  32. Joe Brockmeier

      Wondering why Charles Bukowski didn’t merit his full name in the top graph? Seems odd.

      Also, no Kurt Vonnegut?

  33. Erik Denning

      Way to piss off everyone. This is amusing and severely subjective. You made something that we can all find strong disagreement with. I won’t get into the shit I disagree with, because I’m as wrong or right as everyone else here. Carry on.