Monday, April 25, 2016

The Final Days of Great American Shopping - Book Review

Idgie Says:
This is an intertwined set of stories based around shopping.  But some are quite loosely based.  The first story is centered more on a relationship and how one sometimes tiptoes though it, not quite sure how to proceed.  The only shopping in it is the good deal on storm windows that preceded the marital spat.  

The last story is really abstract in manner - where an apocalypse has caused people to not be able to live outside and they now live in malls, and get buried in luxury cars. The stories in between range between these two bookends - all placed in the same neighborhood.  

An interesting read and it's fun to see the same characters circling each other, but in completely different types of tales. 


The Final Days of Great American Shopping
Stories Past, Present and Future
Gilbert Allen
University of South Carolina Press
April, 2016

A quirky assortment of materialistic suburbanites trying to supersize and spend their way to happiness.

An affectionate satire of the culture of self-indulgence, The Final Days of Great American Shopping exposes the American obsessions with money, mass marketing, and material objects. In Belladonna, a gated subdivision in upstate South Carolina, readers meet a colorful cast of characters doing their best to buy happiness in a series of sixteen closely linked stories from the past, present, and future. Whether speed dating, test driving cars, upsizing to dream houses, flying helicopters, or lusting after designer shoes, these small-town spenders have good intentions that often go hilariously awry as they search for emotional and spiritual comfort.

Gilbert Allen is a master at character development, and the individuals in this collection are no exception. Among them are the childless, emotionally distant couple Butler and Marjory Breedlove; the harried appliance salesman John Beegle and his precocious, pole-dancing daughter Alison; and the one-handed soccer wunderkind Amy Knobloch. Also featured are Ted Dickey, the mastermind of the Mental Defectives self-help book series and the undefeated Speed Dating Champion of the World; Jimmy Scheetz, the pragmatic philanthropist behind Ecumenical Bedding; Ruthella Anderson, a retired first-grade teacher addicted to Star Trek and to extreme couponing; and the mysterious Gabriella, an aging Italian beauty who presides over Doumi Shoes.

Arranged chronologically, the stories span nearly a century. While most are set in the recent past or in the immediate future, the book's title story is set in 2084. It depicts a dystopian shopping mall worthy of George Orwell, John Cheever, or Flannery O'Connor and raises the question, "Can America survive international terrorism, ecological apocalypse, and demographic disaster to morph triumphantly into the USAARP?"