Gavia Libraria

Illeism, or: the tradeoffs of being the Loon

The state of incorporeal pseudonymity is not without its irritants, as well as its compensations. This appears to be true for the Loon’s readers as well as the Loon herself; she can only suppose that internal editorial discussions were had at Library Journal over the propriety of linking out to such a declassé non-personage. Perhaps the scholars who have chosen to quote or cite the Loon in published articles felt a little foolish or transgressive in so doing, as well.

The Loon finds that her greatest irritant is… well, perhaps not what one might think. Those who find her illeism obnoxious are welcome to their annoyance; it does not particularly trouble her. She has seen a few slaps at her integrity and pride, though—how proud can she possibly be of librarianship, said one tweeter, if she won’t use her wallet name to talk about it? The first moments of angry hurt past, the Loon shrugged at that, too. The Loon is only an incorporeal pseudonym, who has no integrity or pride to defend save what is in her words, which can stand by themselves.

This learned detachment—facilitated no little by the Loon’s reader-irritating illeism—is, on the whole, salutary. The Boring Alter Ego destroyed her own career in part with a good bit too much noisy self-defense, never mind noisy attack. Not long ago, though, the BAE committed a serious though unintentional verbal sin in a very public context. When called on it, the BAE stepped back, expressed suitable regret, dropped the matter when her interlocutors did, and sorted out for herself how precisely she had erred so as to avoid erring in that way again. The Loon isn’t sure that would have happened before her own birth (odd though that is to say). It’s quite easy to respond to such dilemmas in a fashion that drops the Internet on one’s skull, and the BAE was once well-known for that style of response. If putting on the third-person Loon-mask has reduced that tendency, well and good.

Some BAEs might indulge in pique that their masks are accruing professional capital that they can’t claim. The Loon’s BAE… well, it’s complicated. Yes, professional capital is a useful commodity, especially since the BAE does not have a full-time job and must bustle about catching fish to compensate. Fortunately, the BAE hasn’t had any trouble putting together an adequate catch, so that recedes as a consideration. More importantly, though, in librarianship professional capital is something of a catch-22. Because of the profession’s notorious tall-poppy syndrome, as well as sundry gender-related issues, what one is allowed to be and do and say once one passes a certain level of notoriety narrows to a point the Loon considers unacceptable. The division of capital between the Loon and the BAE is therefore, on balance, a benefit; it lowers the BAE’s public profile to something manageable.

No, the Loon’s chief irritant is precisely the need to speak of such happenings in roundabout rather than straightforward terms. The BAE doesn’t have her own longer-than-Twitter public speech outlet any longer, and now and then that’s irksome. Conversely, the BAE runs into a good many situations in which she wishes she could cite the Loon, but of course cannot lest dots be connected.

It’s worth it, though, for the lower stakes. Despite her fall from something vaguely resembling grace, the BAE is still a fairly public figure in librarianship, and that carries with it certain expectations of acceptable opinions and deportment, however unreasonable and counterproductive, the flouting of which carries rather severe consequences. The Loon can safely be an outlet for some of those beyond-the-pale opinions; moreover, for some reason it seems easier for at least some folk to hear, even heed, such opinions from an incorporeal pseudonym than from a flesh-and-blood human being, particularly one so historically and even currently divisive as the BAE.

The stakes may be rising, even for the Loon. Most days that’s all right; how far can stakes rise for a ridiculous living fossil of a waterbird, really? For a waterbird who need not defend her integrity or pride? For a waterbird who intentionally deflects certain forms of notice?

Some days it’s worrisome. All the Loon can do is try to use her illeism wisely.

One thought on “Illeism, or: the tradeoffs of being the Loon

  1. Mike Taylor

    Just to be clear … it’s only the third person that (very slightly) bugs me, not the pseudonymity.

    And hey, don’t forget this bit: “she is an informed and astute commentator, always worth listening to”!