delirious professions

“…no wonder people social-climb in New York, since it has more genuine social mobility than London or Paris, where clothes, accents, and manners reveal all too much about origins and where there are no more than three degrees of separation between any two people.  Everyone already knows every single bad thing about you.  In all three cities, people practice what Paul Valéry called the ‘delirious professions,’ those careers that depend on self-assurance and the opinions of others rather than on certifiable skills.  The delirious professions, I’d hazard, comprise literature, criticism, design, the visual arts, acting, advertising, all of the media—but not dance, for instance, where you can either do your thirty-two tour jetés without ‘traveling’ downstage, or you can’t.  If you can do them, you can dance in any company in the world without further ado.  But all the delirious professions, having no agreed-upon standards, require introductions and alliance, protectors and patrons, famous teachers or acclaim by someone reputed.  In short, they depend upon that most mercurial of all possessions:  reputation.”

~Edmund White (“City Boy”)

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