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In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius the critique of the ironic attitude is most evident in the passages concerning Might Magazine. As mentioned in the previous section, the book offers a positive portrayal of the original (however vague) ambitions of the magazine. But soon these ambitions are lost to an attitude of total negative irony:

We begin a pattern of almost immediate opinion-reversal and self-devouring. Whatever the prevailing thinking, especially our own, we contradict it. We change our minds about Wendy Kopp, the young go-getter we heralded in the first issue, and her much-celebrated Teach for America. [...] in a 6,000-word piece that dominates the second issue, we fault the nonprofit for attempting to solve inner-city problems, largely black problems, with white upper-middle-class college-educated solutions. 'Paternalistic condescension,' we say. 'Enlightened self interest,' we sigh.

This passage summarizes the ironic-aesthetic attitude of the editorial staff of Might: every position, every idea has a flip side that can and thus has to be exposed. Timmer writes: 'They are so accustomed to a negative dialectic or a deconstructive attitude that they are much better at articulating what they do not want than they are at formulating any constructive goals and visions.' Initially, this 'deconstructive' activity might even seem like a viable and worthwhile activity in itself. But, as becomes clear from their choice of targeting vulnerable, idealistic initiative, the editors' irony serves, above all, to liberate them from commitment to any of these positions, and insulates them from any criticism that might be brought against them. For Might's editors, the ironic stance of 'immediate opinion-reversal'--that is, to he `positionless'--seems to be the only viable, safe attitude.

However, in the course of the book the editorial staff grow more and more frustrated with their own endless irony. The emptiness of the aesthetic attitude starts to dawn on them; their work becomes 'depressing, routine': 'We debunk the idea of college in general, and marriage, and makeup, and the Grateful Dead - it is our job to point out all this artifice, everywhere.' In the end, Might Magazine loses out to general frustration. The editorial staff realize that their ironic efforts have led to nothing. They have exposed falsity and artificiality everywhere, but have offered no alternatives. As Timmer observes: 'Might, in that sense, implodes. It implodes because their critical stance is deconstructive and eventually turns inwards.' In the end, the editors stand empty-handed: 'all these hundreds of thousands of hours, were going to end without our having saved anyone [. . .]--what had it all been? It had been something to do, some small, small point to make, and the point was made, in a small way'.

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—p.76 Endless Irony (60) by Allard Pieter den Dulk 5 years, 12 months ago