This is Illyria, lady.

Gertrude Stein said about Ezra Pound that “He is a village explainer. Which is fine, if you’re a village.”

I, too, am a Village Explainer. I got it from my father. I rediscovered this last night when I found myself giving the 15 minute history of 19th Century American Religious Movements to someone and thought “Why am I doing this? How do I know this?”

My uncle Richard told me once that it’s a miracle that I escaped the academic world. He should know; he spent a career in a love/hate relationship with being an art professor.

But it’s true. If I could spend an entire life learning things in detail and then explaining them to other people, I’d be happy. I just hated academia because it was too much learning about things I didn’t care about and then explaining them to people who had no interest, which is a lifeless task. If my spiritual life wasn’t such a minefield, I might have become a pastor. If it paid at all, I might have become a computer trainer.

So by default I’ve found my true calling. I’m a dilettante, amateur, flâneur, habitué de café, freelance village explainer. Maybe this is a decent way to grow old.

5 thoughts on “This is Illyria, lady.

  1. I think I might be one of those too, though possibly on a more basic level. I just learn stuff that’s really cool and I want to share the really cool with others. Occasionally this makes me a nuisance, as when I’m in a room full of people who just don’t care about the thylacine, but on other occasions it makes me useful to have around, as when my roommate was confused about the gift of precisely one hundred and eight dollars a Jewish friend gave her and her husband for their wedding. In the realms of the intellect I’m like a rat or a kitten running from place to place and going, “Ooh, ooh, things! Look at the things!”

  2. This title is synonymous with ‘Jack of All Trades’. I’ve often been described in this same light. It has both its merits and its pitfalls in that even people who want and desire to know things don’t always want to be inundated with information. But when encyclopedic knowledge is sought, often the same people are very grateful. What a catch 22, eh?

  3. Guilty as described above. It’s an occupational hazard among record and bookshop folks, I guess, which tends to get mixed up with an odd sense of mission, especially when I’m dealing with younger customers, who either listen intently or hang out for the freakshow. Either way, I get to drop spores, and that’s alright.
    I’m still in my first year as a fulltime bookgeek after many years as fulltime recordgeek. Someone asked me a while ago what aspect of my new job I enjoyed the most. I told them that I couldn’t think of many places outside of academia where you could have three different and non-overlapping discussions about Charles Lamb (and his crazy sister) in the course of the same workweek. So shoot me.

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