A phenomenology of the mall: If the mall makes us feel bad, why do we keep going back? In a world poisoned by capitalism, is shopping what makes life worth living?
In less than a century, the shopping mall has morphed from a blueprint for a socialist utopia to something else entirely: a home to disaffected mallrats and depressed zoo animals, a sensory overload and consumerist trap.
Kate Black grew up in North America's largest mall: West Edmonton Mall - a mall on steroids. It's the site of a notoriously lethal rave for teenagers, a fatal rollercoaster accident, and more than one gun-range suicide; it's where oil field workers reap the social mobility of a boom-and-bust economy, the impossibly large structure where teens attempt to invent themselves in dark Hollister sales racks and weird horny escapades in the indoor waterpark. It's a place people love to hate and hate to love - a site of pleasure and pain, of death and violence, of (sub)urban legend.
Can malls tell us something important about who we are? Blending a history of shopping with a story of coming-of-age in North America's largest and strangest mall, Big Mall nvestigates how these structures have become the ultimate symbol of late-capitalist dread - and, surprisingly, a subversive site of hope. Ultimately, a close look at the mall reveals clues to how a good life in these times is possible.
"Speaking as a child of PacSun and Hot Topic myself, Big Mall is like a madeleine dipped in Orange Julius. Like a mall, the book itself has a lot of everything, a sublime mix of memoir, history, and cultural criticism. Kate Black is a learned Virgil in the consumerist Inferno, always avoiding the obvious and leading us to surprising connections - oil, suicide, Reddit, squatters, dolphins. Whether malls fill you with nostalgia or horror, this book will change your relationship to the world we've constructed around us." - Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
"Before there was Instagram, there was the mall. But what happens when a seasonless, tacky, fantasyland is all you knew growing up? How does one embrace a genuinely fake experience? Or to be more precise, a fake but genuine experience? Kate Black's Big Mall is a smart, sentimental, and perspective-shifting look at the outsized role that big malls play in modern life. Love 'em or hate 'em, one thing's for sure: after reading this book, you'll never look at a mall in the same way again." - Ziya Tong, Science broadcaster & author of The Reality Bubble