2. Note appearances of peripheral attention-seeking figures (PASFs) in the noteworthy individuals’ lives. You may need to go all the way back to art school.
Look for these qualities:
a. Was the PASF known for outrageous behavior, usually to a distracting degree? (e.g., Nakedness in the classroom, nakedness in a public fountain (a classic), or nakedness in the shower, while others were trying to shower alone).
b. Did the PASF dress funny? Was it funnier than you’d expect for the time period? (e.g,, green hair during the Regency period, live animal hats in the Jazz Age, scrap metal undergarments at any given time)
c. Was the PASF stoned to the gills six days a week and unconscious the remaining day?
d. Were they sexually active to a degree that didn’t seem quite right? (e.g. voluminous anonymous group sex in public bathrooms with albino quadriplegic dwarves)
e. Was the PASF expelled from an educational institution because the instructors were close-minded simpletons who lacked vision by insisting the PASF turn in assignments?
f. Was the PASF frequently involved in criminal actions that seem amusingly quirky now, but which would piss off the reader if he or she were the PASF’s target today?
g. Did the PASF perform some stupid-ass action that done got their ass killed?
Having three or more of the above traits in their goodie bag is a good start for the PASF’s qualification as an unsung genius. Unsung geniuses don’t just live… they live, live, LIVE! (i.e., acted like selfish assheads.)
3. Going back to that golden epoch of artistry (e.g. the Renaissance, 1940s New York, any urban nightclub environment during the late 1970s), observe what took place about a year before anything interesting happened. Note the PASF’s behavior:
a. Did they appear onstage, play guitar badly, shout out a few lyrics, stumble around, vomit, and then pass out? Did the crowd, according to the two old-timers who swear they were there remember that the crowd howled for their blood, because their minds could not accept the violent and uncompromising truth they just saw, even though it took place at a church talent show? Congratulations, your PASF invented punk rock.
b. Was their creative output so minimal as to be nonexistent? Did their pamphlet, 7″, song fragment, or doodle inspire a larger work by a greater talent? Can you at least draw an imaginary line between it and, say, Ulysses or van Gogh’s Starry Night? Go ahead. Nobody’s looking.
c. Did they inspire more noteworthy artists through bizarre behavior, joyless fucking, extended crying jags, and destruction of the artists’ works, homes, and egos? Did this “inspiration” give way to productivity when they were finally driven off or died?
4. When presenting your theories, be sure to buy into your own bullshit, and forget that you’re engaging in revision for the sake of self-promotion. You really DO believe that this person was overlooked by all the major scholars of a field out of spite, obstinacy, or, I dunno, just to poke holes in their credibility and make their jobs harder. Goddamn it, it stands to reason.