The rise and decline of the shopping mall 

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  • Published 20230801
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-86-3
  • Extent: 196pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THERE WERE THE initial gatherings. The whispers of a place like no one had ever seen before. The excitement across American cities was palpable; it cracked and fizzed into church gossip, water-cooler talk – one place for all your shopping needs. There were rumours of one in the Midwest, another in California – the Golden State, the land of sun and abundance. Soon, all across the country, mayors were sliding baroque scissors through ruby-red ribbons, cameras flashing over their hard-won smiles, their images committed to the front page of the daily. A surge of job opportunities presented themselves, and newly minted retail attendants straightened displays and flung open roller doors. 

So was born the mall. The people of America flooded to this new and exciting place, exclaiming in wonder at the high ornate ceiling, the chandeliers that lit up the rooms in a warm but invigorating glow, the magnificence of the staircase. Although some citizens were initially sceptical that all their desires could be met in this one complex, those same people soon found it impossible to imagine a time before the convenience of the mall, or remember when exactly they first fell victim to its spell, walking in for tea lights and out three hours later, arms full. It was the ’50s. The war was over. The Depression forgotten. The American Dream – now crystallised in cultural consciousness the world over – felt more achievable than ever. And it was to the mall where people rushed to achieve this dream, to make their lives shiny and new. Where housewives could browse the latest fashion, get their hair blow-dried, buy a six-slice toaster for just $14.99 or a punch bowl that would be the envy of cousin Barbara. Where men, young and old, could buy their beaus and wives and mistresses bouquets and jewellery and that new couch set with the matching ottoman – all in one convenient place, no mind the forecast, each mall ensconced in perpetual spring. Where you could find lawn ornaments of pink flamingos and bird baths. Where you could relax, break up a day of cooking or working, buy an ice-cream on a Saturday and run into Dave and Marjorie from down the road. Where you could buy hedges and hedge-trimmers, a pot big enough to cook the baby, a barbeque and glistening hams, new curtains for the kitchen. For the kids: school supplies, the latest toy, a puppy at Christmas or after the death of a beloved grandparent – all these things and more within the glorious confines of the local shopping mall. And although the puppy might pee or vomit or deposit a stinker on the carpet, there was always another, better cleaning product or a new carpet – in that sea-foam green that had just come into style – to be purchased. 

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About the author

Katerina Gibson

Katerina Gibson is a writer living in Naarm (Melbourne). Her debut collection, Women I Know (Scribner, 2022), won the 2023 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction....

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