Welcome to a new kind of 21st-century storytelling. This remarkable collection of writing is hard to categorise in any orthodox sense, but it is a brilliant and often profound form of literature that says more about the modern human condition than a hundred more conventional novels might.
Tales from the Mall
by Ewan Morrison
Cargo, 340pp, £9.99
Tales from the Mall contains short stories, various kinds of non-fiction including essays, journalism, etymology, history and social comment – and most impressively – modern folk tales culled from interviews with people working in or regularly interacting with shopping malls.
Morrison’s fiction to date has dabbled with themes of consumerism, capitalism and commercialisation, and this collection can be seen as a culmination of that obsession. In the erudite introduction he explains his fascination with shopping malls, these colossal, unreal spaces that have taken over our lives yet that seem curiously under-examined in modern culture.
The genius of Tales from the Mall is that Morrison plays everything with a straight bat. General consensus amongst well-educated types is that malls are evil, soulless places, a malaise of modern life to be scorned. But Morrison here reveals a much more complex ecosystem, a subtle and strange interaction between humans and the spaces we inhabit, and it is a genuinely revelatory read in that respect.
So we encounter the separated couple who use the mall as a neutral space for the handover of the kids, the woman using it for the scene of an illicit affair, the Muslim woman who uses the mall to power-walk in a space without fear of abuse from local teenage boys.
There are pieces of writing here that will make you cry, others that will give you a warm glow about humanity, and still others that will make you despair at the state of the world.
The interplay between straight fiction, collected true stories and Morrison’s impeccably researched non-fiction is often mesmerising, and the cumulative emotional power comes as a shock, and truly makes you look at the world in a different light.
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