This article offers a spatial analysis of Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize winning novel Empire Falls, the narrative of a fictional mill town in perpetual decline. Within the larger framework of transnational capital and globalisation and outside the boundaries of fiction, I will parallel the real-life evolution of the Lowell mills from the largest industrial complex of the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, through its deindustrialisation in the twentieth century, and finally the subsequent revitalisation after recognising the town's potential in a global market. Lowell serves as an instructive and productive counterexample to the perpetual decline portrayed in Empire Falls. By looking beyond the frame of fictional analysis to this real life example, this article shows the ways in which Empire Falls failed in imagining a future.
Full text: PDF