Tales from the Mall, By Ewan Morrison
This mash-up of fiction biography and social history creatively mimics our retail frenzy.
Saturday 26 May 2012
Gruen transfer is the phenomenon of entering a shopping mall with a specific purchase in mind, only to be confused into buying something else. Ewan Morrison's brief description of how Gruen – designer of the first modern mall and a committed socialist – came to be known for such capitalist sleight-of-hand is clear-eyed and crisp. Yet it also acts as a suitable metaphor for this ambitious yet awkwardly executed mash-up of fiction, history and biography.
Looking at its kitschy jacket, Tales from the Mall seems to present itself as a Gen-X style romp through the oddness of modern capitalism. A flick through the photo-dotted pages, however, suggests a kind of urban Sebald; a poetic rumination on the cultural and social implications of out-of-town shopping centres. What Morrison has created is neither one nor the other: not quite a collection of short stories; not as fluid and resonant as psychogeography.
Tales strives towards a new way to express modern culture, but too often its literary architecture does not do justice to its aspirations. The poorly reproduced look of the illustrations and mall-style symbols are often a Gruen-esque distraction from the text. This is a shame, as stories such as "Recycling" and the oddly compelling history of the shopping mall deserve the reader's full attention. Morrison glides us through people's lives, picking up tips for creating havoc at malls, digesting facts and stats, dipping into the loneliness at the heart of consumerism. The effect is, like a mall, mostly dazzling.
Morrison is always ready to find disquiet and unease in the most banal of places. His book is populated by small lives in the shadow of the multi-national, delivered in a sympathetic manner. There is the odd stilted moment but, even with the problems in structure, His writing remains fresh and inventive. Imperfect it may be, but Morrison's keen eye and verve make this book an enjoyable, fascinating and frustrating attempt at redefining story in these consumer-driven times.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kanye West drops 'All Day', music video to come from Steve McQueen
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut