A Critique of “Mallaise: How to Know If You Have It” by William Kowinski
Any creature’s entry into an alien, bewildering world usually produces a set series of emotions and reactions on the part of said creature. Discombobulating vertigo attacks are possible. Aggressiveness towards others is not unusual. An all-encompassing cold fear is to be expected. But could any location on Earth really produce such lonesome, distressing symptoms in humans? According to William Kowinski’s cute “Mallaise: How to Know If You Have It”, one American establishment is a routine culprit: malls.
Malls, certainly, were and are designed to affect people. But according to Kowinski, they have since become the purveyors of much more affecting symptoms than the traditional euphoria or simple annoyance. Mallaise or mal de mall has crept into American society. The author describes these afflictions most vividly when he recalls his own experiences:
I had my first attack of mal de mall in Columbia, Maryland. I was in a restaurant in the Columbia Mall having coffee. The attack was characterized by feverishness, sudden fatigue, and high anxiety, all recurring whenever I glanced out at the mall itself. The thought of going out there again made me sweat and swoon, and I had to fight the hallucinatory certainty that when I left the restaurant I would be in Greengate mall, or maybe Woodfield, or Tysons Corner. Or all of them. (Kowinski 492)
All of this paints a humorous portrait of American consumerism. However, Kowinski spends too much time coining droll neologisms such as the aforementioned “mallaise” and “mal de mall”, which along with such pearls as “dismallcumbobulation”, “plastiphobia” and the “Zombie Effect”, take up almost three-quarters of the article when paired with their respective definitions. The final paragraphs however, in which Kowinski discusses the lack of viable alternatives to malls, manage to shine through, if only because of their relative seriousness.
The author also...