• Meet Me by the Fountain

  • An Inside History of the Mall
  • By: Alexandra Lange
  • Narrated by: Mikhaila Aaseng
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Meet Me by the Fountain by Alexandra Lange, read by Mikhaila Aaseng.

A portrait—by turns celebratory, skeptical, and surprisingly moving—of one of America’s most iconic institutions.

Few places have been as nostalgized, or as maligned, as malls. Since their birth in the 1950s, they have loomed large as temples of commerce, the agora of the suburbs. In their prime, they proved a powerful draw for creative thinkers such as Joan Didion, Ray Bradbury and George Romero, who understood the mall’s appeal as both critics and consumers. Yet today, amid the aftershocks of financial crises and a global pandemic, as well as the rise of online retail, the dystopian husk of an abandoned shopping center has become one of our era’s defining images. Conventional wisdom holds that the mall is dead. But what was the mall, really? And have rumors of its demise been greatly exaggerated?

In her acclaimed The Design of Childhood, Alexandra Lange uncovered the histories of toys, classrooms and playgrounds. She now turns her sharp eye to another subject we only think we know. She chronicles post-war architects’ and merchants’ invention of the mall, revealing how the design of these marketplaces played an integral role in their cultural ascent. In Lange’s perceptive account, the mall becomes newly strange and rich with contradiction: Malls are environments of both freedom and exclusion—of consumerism, but also of community. Meet Me by the Fountain is a highly entertaining and evocative promenade through the mall’s story of rise, fall and ongoing reinvention, for listeners of any generation.

©2022 Alexandra Lange (P)2022 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"A deeply researched history of the American shopping mall.... Lange concludes by examining the possibility that the mall might be reborn as something more than simply a shopping space by incorporating offices, hotels, and even educational centers.... The mall is dead—but it may yet live again, as Lange’s instructive book capably shows." (Kirkus)

"This thorough, culturally aware history will surprise and inspire audiences who may feel they already know the story of the shopping megaplex.... Despite malls' sometimes problematic past, Lange envisions an inspiring, community-oriented repurposing of these monuments to consumerism...her hope and optimism for more diverse and sustainable mall uses will inspire readers to see these behemoth structures as a vital and versatile resource for the future." (Shelf Awareness)

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Absolutely Excellent Book

I’ve spent a decade fetishizing the videos of dead malls with the somber vapor wave playing in the background, entranced by the decline of mid to late twentieth century consumer culture. This book puts that decline, those videos, and the communities at the heart of our shopping ecosystem into perspective. Lange’s intensive scholarship is supplemented by case studies, trips in the field, and a host of great scholars cited throughout. This book was really fantastic. I am going to listen to it again now. Highly, highly recommend.

Note: three stars for performance, as the narrator mispronounces something at least once a chapter, typically a venue or scholar being cited.