Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I stayed at home for most of the day, reading Alex Kava's "Black Friday." It's about a terrorist plot that takes place at the Mall of America on the day after Thanksgiving. Last night I watched "Paul Blart, Mall Cop," which I had never seen; it's set at a mall (obviously) during a takeover attempt by some skateboarding criminals during the Christmas season. I had never seen it before, and I really enjoyed it.

I was thinking about the kinds of books and movies I like, and what kind of themes run through them. Lately I've mostly been reading thrillers and paranormal mysteries, with a little "women's fiction" thrown in. I read almost exclusively fiction, almost never non-fiction. I'll read a memoir occasionally, and sometimes short stories. I have kind of a problem with short stories, though. I love the idea of them, I love an anthology of stories all in a theme, for instance, but short stories kind of make me nervous, for some reason. I can't relax and enjoy them, I always seem to hurry through them. I don't really understand that. It's as if, if I know the story is going to end in a few pages, I need to rush to get through it rather than relaxing into a longer book.

My favorite fiction is urban fantasy, or magical realism (although that term seems to be applied mostly to Latin American writers)--normal, or realistic, life with elements of magic or paranormal aspects. The "Twilight" series, for instance, the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, or the "Demon Hunting Soccer Mom" books by Julie Kenner. Normal appearing/seeming characters who happen to be vampires or demon hunters or something else fantastic. The idea of getting a glimpse into a hidden world that just might be there all the time.

I'm intrigued, in general, by stories set in contained "societies", i.e., airports, hotels, malls, theme parks. I'm not sure why. I don't shop at malls anymore, I can't remember the last time I went to one. But I enjoy the idea of them. One of my favorite fantasies as a child was thinking about what it would be like to live in the mall--sleeping in the furniture store, eating at the food court (although that was before food courts; the big department stores had restaurants of their own), etc.

I do love airports, the big ones, like Orlando International Airport, with stores, restaurants, hotels -- like in the Tom Hanks movie, "Terminal," I can imagine living in an airport indefinitely. Last night I also watched a Jennifer Aniston movie, "Management," in which her character, a traveling saleswoman, has a fling with a motel night manager who lives at the motel; that's kind of intriguing, too -- not the fling, but living at the motel.

Stuart M. Kaminsky has written a series of books set in Sarasota, Florida, the latest of which is "Bright Futures," featuring a down-on-his-luck character named Lew Fonseca. Fonseca's wife was killed by a drunk driver, in Chicago, I believe, and in his despair, he takes off driving south. His car breaks down in Sarasota, so he stays there and becomes a process server, lives in a run-down motel, and eats his meals at the Dairy Queen across the street.

We can see this mixing of the familiar and the unexpected in the way some works of post-apocalyptic fiction take images of enclosed malls, office parks, singles complexes, and theme parks, and use them as the raw material for depictions of walled-in high-tech cities full of inhabitants who have retreated from nature and the larger world. The contemporary mall, as an island of safety and comfort amid a desert of blacktop and crime, is transformed into a future city in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of mutants and bandits. Mall security, watching the video screens from the central office, gets turned into a depiction of future armies and police monitoring distant events from their high-tech headquarters.

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction in Movies and Television

Earlier this week I read "Murderland" by Thomas B. Cavanagh, a murder mystery set in a thinly-disguised version of Walt Disney World called Empire Realms. There's also a wonderful science fiction novel by Cory Doctorow called "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom." I guess I need to make a definitive list . . .

I don't know why this kind of fiction appeals to me. It may be something about a somewhat closed society feeling safe. I love, for instance, the idea of Celebration, the Disney "company town" in Florida. But it's like a Stepford town, and I'm pretty sure that the rules and regulations would drive me crazy. So I doubt I would like it in practice, but in theory, it intrigues me. It's one of those dichotomies that make us human, I guess. We can be fascinated by things that we would never actually do in real life.

This treatise got away from me! What I started out to write about was that I stayed at home most of the day, then went out around 3:00. I deposited a check in the bank, then went to Panera Bread for an early dinner, then went by Half Price Books. I seem to have lost my copy of Ladder of Years, or at least haven't been able to find it, so thought I'd look there for another copy. They had a couple, but they were pretty used looking, so I'm going to wait until I get a good Borders coupon, and buy a new copy. That was all I really needed to do today.

Bob had to work today, and won't be home until around 10:30 or later. I wasn't really ready to come home yet, so I stopped at Kohl's to browse. I ended up buying some Christmas cards there, then went to Target and cruised through the Christmas aisles. I kind of wanted to get out there and get into the Christmas spirit a little. It kind of worked. Tomorrow I'll put up the wreath on the front door and maybe do some other little things around the house.

Nothing seemed to be very busy, although it may have been late enough when I went out that if there was a rush, it was over. I'll have to ask Bob tonight if his store was busy. It was kind of nice that there weren't any crowds, but I actually would have felt better about it if there were. It would have been an indication to me that maybe the economy is improving. But either way, the Christmas season is upon us, time for me to watch "Christmas With the Kranks," much of which is set at the mall . . .


Interesting link with a list of books set in malls: Shopping Mall Studies

Library Thing / Shopping Malls / Fiction

Books set at Disney Theme Parks

Overbooked: Books set in or featuring amusement parks or theme parks

city of sound: A review of "A Week at the Airport" by Alain de Botton

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