It shouldn’t be any surprise that West Edmonton Mall features prominently in a book about shopping experiences in Canada. After all, as Dobson writes, it’s “the alpha and omega of malls in Canada, and it feels like both a starting point and an ending place for this book.” But what is unexpected is the way Dobson writes about West Ed (or WEM, if you prefer); he introduces his conversation about it with a sequence of poems, Heather Spears’s “The dolphin in the West Edmonton Mall.” It’s just one of the many art forms he engages – among movies, fiction, graphic novels and visual art – in a thoughtful discussion of the shopping rituals we remember, eagerly embark on or avoid, whether at a mall in Toronto or at a Wal-Mart in Whitehorse. “I wanted to take shopping seriously, as a thing that many of us do often, but that we aren’t really invited to think about,” Dobson says. “Lots of people love shopping; lots of people hate it. But most of us, I think, don’t tend to contemplate it in too much depth. So I wondered: Can we think consciously about engaging in consumerism with all of the environmental and social consequences that shopping leads to?” The seriousness is balanced with humour and nostalgia such as with Dobson’s wry observation that West Ed’s Bourbon Street has been “shortened to BRBN Street in our post-truth, post-vowel-using era.” Part memoir, part travel narrative, part history and part cultural studies, it’s a book you can ponder while enjoying a Wetzel’s Pretzel in the foodcourt. See Dobson at Litfest on October 13. -Breanna Mroczek
This week, incoming U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline. What should be Alberta’s response?