With regard to American patriotism, what does Super Sad True Love Story offer? How does Shteyngart relate today's America to the one in the novel? How does the novel address the issue of America having a distinctive status on the global stage?
Please provide specific examples. Thanks.
In Super Sad True Love Story, Lenny Abramov, "born in the USA," is the son of Russian-Jewish parents and is returning from a year in Italy, trying, unsuccessfully, to sell a form of immortality through his job with the Post Human Services division of a multinational corporation. His target-market is high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in need of superficial means of maintaining their youth. This may sound uncomfortably familiar to the reader as even in 2014, young and old strive to preserve or change their physical features. Money is the determining factor and so, it seems that America already has its version of HNWIs who qualify. Furthermore, America is not the power force it was once conceived to be and its decline, and the devalued dollar, is evident:
"Who were these people all around me? Americans, I guess. But what did that even mean anymore?"
Being patriotic, it is suggested, is all about trying to bolster "the flickering capricious dollar amounts" by investing in local property but people no longer trust the dollar and instead use the "steady yuan- and euro-pegged denominations." Monopolies are the order of the day and there is confusion and anti-immigrant sentiment, instigated by the "American Restoration Authority" (ARA) which attempts to sell itself to Americans: “Together We’ll Go Far.” The fact that street signs are misspelled and the dollar is no longer in favor, confirm the destructive path. People, like Eunice's Korean parents who live in New Jersey, recognize America's decline and Eunice's mother says,"Which is why now Korea very rich country and America owe everything to China people."
Shteyngart makes readers believe that the near-future that Lenny inhabits is feasible and believable, adding to the shock element and, perhaps, forcing patriotic Americans to reconsider their position. The America of the future, on the verge of ruin, is not to be taken lightly and ignoring the signs, it seems, can have disastrous effects. Using a little imagination, Americans can visualize this future as, currently, smart phones have become an integral part of life and technology is almost overtaking itself. It seems that the America of the future, where privacy is not even a consideration is not that different from the present-day, where the paparazzi uses ever-evolving methods and devices which allow it to extract and share the most personal information of celebrities to which others have no real right. Shteyngart takes this to the next level and, just as individuals hanker after every snippet of information about celebrities without considering its effects, so, in Lenny's world, this also happens but to everyone.
Americans, in Lenny's America, still feel that they have a role to play but they "are afraid to say ‘boo’ in the States," and Shteyngart reveals this fact as patriotism is no longer about being proud but more about just surviving. Following a person digitally is expected and adds a "Big Brother" element, more reminiscent of Russia than America- a point not lost on the reader. America has perhaps been too comfortable as a super power to the point that its complacency has allowed, for example, China, to become a more formidable entity. America is in the grip of "profound change," and its distinctive status is irreparably affected:
I hated the false spire of the “Freedom” Tower,..for every single reason I could think of, but mostly for its promise of sovereignty and brute strength, and I wanted to cut my ties with my country."