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STUPID UNDERGROUNDS - MANN
Zone - Page 3

along behind them? Why not simply accede to the mock-heroic rhetoric of cultural opposition (subversion, resistance, etc.) that, after a generation of deconstructions, we still don't have the strength to shake; or to the nouveau rhetoric of multiplicity (plurality, diversity, etc.), as if all one needed was to add a few more disparate topic headings to break the hold of a One that, in truth, one still manages to project in the very act of superceding it? Nothing will prevent us--indeed nothing can save us--from ransoming ourselves again and again to the exhausted mastery of these arrangements; nothing will keep us from orienting ourselves toward every difference by means of the most tattered maps. But at the same time we must entertain--doubtless the right word--the sheer possibility that what we encounter here is not just one more margin or one more avant-garde, however impossible it will be to avoid all the orders and terms attendant upon those venerable and ruined cultural edifices. We must remain open to the possibility that this stupid underground poses all the old questions but a few more as well, that it might suggest another set of cultural arrangements, other topographies and other mappings, however unlikely that might be. In any case, whatever vicarious attractions the stupid underground offers the bored intellectual groping for a way to heat up his rhetoric, if not his thought, whatever else we might encounter here, it is important to insist that you will not find these maps laid out for your inspection, as if on an intellectual sale table, and rated for accuracy and charm. No claim is being staked here; no one is being championed, no one offered up on the critical auction block as the other of the month. There is nothing here to choose; all the choices have already been made. One can only hope, in what will surely prove an idle gesture, to complicate cultural space for a moment or two, for a reader or two, to thicken it and slow one's passage through it, and, as always, to render criticism itself as painful and difficult as possible. Indeed, let us suggest that this tour of the stupid underground is above all else designed--according to a certain imaginary, a certain parody, the curve of a perfectly distorted mirror--not to give us an opportunity to rub elbows with the natives and feel some little thrill of identification with them, but to expose to criticism its own stupidity, its impossibility, its abject necessity. Why go there at all? To pursue a renunciation of culture past the limit, where it precisely leaves us behind, where criticism can no longer observe it,

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