The Final Days of Great American Shopping: Stories Past, Present, and Future

The Final Days of Great American Shopping: Stories Past, Present, and Future

The Final Days of Great American Shopping: Stories Past, Present, and Future

The Final Days of Great American Shopping: Stories Past, Present, and Future

Synopsis

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 acolorful 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?"

Excerpt

Butler Breedlove wanted only to surprise her. For years, ever since The Great Oil Embargo, they’d talked about getting storm windows. But something had always come up: he’d have a bad month with commissions, she’d want to go to Spoleto, it wasn’t that hot, it wasn’t that cold. Last week, though, after selling a million-dollar policy to the contractor in Sans Souci, he’d gotten a great deal on some 32x40 double-hung deluxe units with spring-loaded screens. He’d save even more by installing them himself. “Nine screws,” his new client had told him. “It’s easier than a second honeymoon.” Butler had taken home a couple of boxes from the warehouse each day, hiding them under an old piece of indoor-outdoor carpeting in the garage.

On Saturday morning, after Marjorie had left to visit her mother in Easley, he decided to put them up. He started as soon as her Toyota had disappeared behind the row of sugar maples that marked the east end of their property. He might have to work straight through if he were going to finish before she came back for the sake of the Morrisons, who would be over for supper at 7:00. Marjorie hated them. She hated most of his friends.

For once, life was as easy as he’d been told: nine Phillips screws per frame, three on every side except the bottom, to sink into the soft pine of the casing. Grunting happily with each twist of the handle, he congratulated himself for having had the sense to insist that they buy a ranch, not the split-level white elephant on Beacon Street. There he’d be perched on an extension ladder, sweating like a fireman by now. Here he was getting . . .

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