Weiter zum Inhalt

Re-Learning to Read: Gary Shteyngart and the Commodification of Reading Practices

Clemens Spahr


Seiten 549 - 565

DOI https://doi.org/10.33675/AMST/2019/4/7


open-access

This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)



This essay argues that Gary Shteyngart’s "Super Sad True Love Story" is an allegory of contemporary reading practices, and as such a critical intervention on par with, and coincident to, the postcritical reframing of the act of literary criticism. In "Super Sad True Love Story", Shteyngart paints a picture of a world that perpetually reads but hates books, sending his two protagonists on a quest for literacy. This period is also implicitly named by the postcritical intervention into reading for depth and its replacement by reading on the surface. The novel stresses the epistemological function of literature in an illiterate period. Shteyngart demands that we attend closely to the nuances of contemporary reading and writing practices, thereby emphasizing that literature needs to stress its status as literature if it wants to remain relevant. In addition to arguing that "Super Sad True Love Story" is a novel about relearning to read in a time hostile to reading, this essay establishes how the book runs into a number of contradictions. The novel’s discursive versatility and the marketing campaign that accompanied it perpetually threaten to undermine the novel’s aspiration to re-establish an immersive mode of reading, as it allows readers to isolate its appearance as a commodity from its critique of reading practices. Shteyngart’s novel offers an important critique of the contemporary literary situation; but its formal and economic strategies also call into question its ability to cognitively map the contemporary cultural moment.

1 Best, Stephen, and Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations 108.1 (2009): 1-21. Print.

2 Brown, Nicholas. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Real Subsumption under Capital.” Nonsite.org. Emory College of Arts and Sciences, 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 April 2019. https://nonsite.org/editorial/the-work-of-art-in-the-age-of-its-real-subsumption-under-capital.

3 Felski, Rita. The Limits of Critique. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 2015. Print.

4 Franklin, Ruth. “Dechronification.” Rev. of Super Sad True Lovestory, by Gary Shteyngart. New Republic. The New Republic, 2 Sep. 2010. Web. 25 April 2019. https://newrepublic.­com/article/77379/gary-shteyngart-review-­dechronification.

5 Jameson, Fredric. “Cognitive Mapping.” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1988. 347-60. Print.

6 ---. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. London: Verso, 1998. Print.

7 ---. The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992. Print.

8 ---. Jameson on Jameson: Conversations on Cultural Marxism. Ed. Ian Buchanan. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2007. Print.

9 ---. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1993. Print.

10 Kriebernegg, Ulla. “Ending Aging in the Shteyngart of Eden: Biogerontological Discourse in a Super Sad True Love Story.” Journal of Aging Studies 27.1 (2013): 60-71. Print.

11 Kuntz, Mary. “Will Social Media Make Us Anti-Social? A Talk with Gary Shteyngart.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 25. Oct. 2011. Web. 25 April 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/will-social-media-make-us-anti-social-a-talk-with-gary-shteyngart/247373/.

12 Lea, David. Neoliberalism, the Security State, and the Quantification of Reality. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. Print.

13 Lipsitz, George. Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place. London: Verso, 1994. Print.

14 Lupton, Deborah. The Quantified Self. Cambridge: Polity, 2016. Print.

15 Malewitz, R. “‘Some New Dimension Devoid of Hip and Bone’: Remediated Bodies and Digital Posthumanism in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.” Arizona Quarterly 71.4 (2015): 107-27. Print.

16 McClanahan, Annie. “Bad Credit: The Character of Credit Scoring.” Representations 126.1 (2014): 31-57. Print.

17 Ramos, Julia. Divergent Modernities: Culture and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2001. Print.

18 Robbins, Bruce. “Fashion Conscious Phenomenon.” American Book Review 38.5 (2017): 5-6. Print.

19 Said, Edward. Humanism and Democratic Criticism. New York: Columbia UP, 2004. Print.

20 Shapiro, Stephen. “Realignment and Televisual Intellect: The Telepraxis of Class Alliances in Contemporary Subscription Television Drama.” Class Divisions in Serial Television. Ed. Sieglinde Lemke and Wibke Schniedermann. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 177-205. Print.

21 ---. “The Culture of Realignment Enlightened and ‘I Can’t Breathe.’” Navigating the Transnational in Modern American Literature and Culture. Ed. Tara Stubbs and Doug Haynes. London: Routledge, 2017. 144-61. Print.

22 Shapiro, Stephen, and Neil Lazarus. “Translatability, Combined Unevenness, and World Literature in Antonio Gramsci.” Mediations 32.1 (2018): 1-36. Print.

23 Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.

24 ---. “Book Trailer: Super Sad True Love Story.” YouTube, uploaded by Random House. 7 July 2010. Web. 24 April 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfzuOu4UIOU.

25 Tyson, Lois. Psychological Politics of the American Dream: The Commodification of Subjectivity in Twentieth-Century American Literature. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1994. Print.

26 Wegner, Phillip. Life between Two Deaths, 1989-2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2009. Print.

Empfehlen


Export Citation