In year seven I studied the layouts of malls and I distinctly remember being told that their floors are slightly convex so that aimless drifters are pushed towards the stores that line the corridors. They also arrange the escalators so you have to walk past the maximum number of stores if you ever attempt to escape.

My wariness of malls isn’t helped by A.S. Byatt’s Baglady (which if you haven’t read, you must. I think you can find it in her collection of short stories called Elementals), a work that’s been circling around my mind ever since I read it around five years ago. Set in the Good Fortune Mall it’s a pretty nightmarish story of a well-to-do women’s decline lost in the unchanging, inescapable surroundings of smiley shop assistants and elevator music. It’s probably because of this story that I’d never ever dream of going to Dubai. 

Recently I’ve been trying to revolt against this trickery and do everything I can to not be attracted to a single piece of advertising but instead to take in the whole experience as almost a little piece of modernist literature. The background sickly scent of waxed bare-chested corporate greed (Abercrombie and Fitch) is as much a part of the experience as observing golden-lit curves of the softly spiraling architecture, or the sensation of the whole place being heated to exactly body-temperature.

So there shopping centers, I’ve found your Achilles heel. 


One thought on “Modernist Shopping

  1. Love this! Yesterday I was in a queue at Waitrose in Sudbury. There was a very elegant 90ish woman in front of me. She had a pile of stuff not yet on the conveyor belt, so I asked if the stuff was hers and if she’d like me to move it for her. She was sure it wasn’t hers when her daughter, an impatient, long-suffering 60ish woman said, ‘mum that IS you stuff.’ The older woman didn’t recognise it as hers and in a stage whisperturned to me with, ‘this is what happens when two people go shopping…’ As the moment for paying came, the young woman instructed her mother to get out the RED card and the GREEN card as though her mother were a toddler. The mother moved the items up the conveyor belt, giving me knowing looks, ignoring her daughter. The younger woman tried to make eye contact with me as if to say, ‘isn’t she impossible?” I know who I woulld have preferred to spend the afternoon with…

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