Book review: Tales From The Mall, Ewan Morrison
Cargo Publishing, £9.99
WHEN was the last time you were in a shopping centre? Last weekend? Last night? What did you buy, what did you look at, which shops did you go in? Bet you can’t even remember.
Read Tales From The Mall and it will all come back: Accessorize, La Senza, the security guard chucking out teenagers because no, it’s not a public space, the unspeakable human waste in the yukka plant by the escalator, the dreamy bovine sliding along on the obstacle-free polished floor past an endless conveyer belt of brands and images – iPad, Superdry hoodie, cuddly toy... oh that’s right, you bought a cuddly toy from Build-a-Bear, you remember now.
There’s nothing sleep-inducing or hypnotic about Ewan Morrison’s book though. An innovative way of delivering his trademark obsessions with globalisation, consumerism and relationships, its an engaging mix of fact and fiction. There’s storytelling, journalism and tales straight from the mouths of those who work and shop in our temples to consumerism. Morrison presents us with the familiar, mundane, everyday life of the mall and takes it apart to point out its absurdities and complexities.
There are things you never knew about the psychology of malls, such as food stores always being on the top floor so you’ll have to walk the entire mall to get there, and that the most expensive spot in a department store is next to ladies’ shoes – because while they wait to try them on they’ll be lusting after the cosmetics next door. When you find yourself walking across wet grass to get to the mall, realise it’s because if you’re walking there, you’re not their affluent target market.
All this would make a great book on its own but there would be one thing missing: people. That’s where the fiction comes in, with short stories interspersed with the theory. These produce the equivalent of the glee you experience in TK Maxx when you find a Calvin Klein dress among the canary yellow size 18s. Which, by the way, is a tool known as “the accidental find” or “combat covetousness” that stores deploy. You weren’t incredibly lucky. You were being manipulated, sucker.
The stories range from laugh out loud funny (which isn’t easy when we’re talking suicide, alcoholism, loneliness, sexism and racism) to on the button social commentary. Staffing the tales from the mall are brilliant characters, such as the repellent yet compelling Rena the Cleana who so offends a potential suicide she saves his life, and Pope Jim in the car park who’s done three different anger management courses.
There are facts about history, design and layout, from the Athenian Agora to 19th century department stores and post-war US where malls really took off with the birth of the affordable family car.
And before you leave this review, you might like to just pause, coralled at the exit by the bargains and allow yourself to be tempted by the Twenty Top Tips For Brightening Your Day In The Mall, from a teenage networking site. These include: “Drop a used condom in a high end-department store.” The kitchen section by the Le Creuset pans is recommended as is Dove shower gel as a realistic substitute for semen.
This is a book for anyone who’s ever dated, waited, worked or berated in a mall. Which is all of us. And sometimes we just shop there too. «
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West