Suffled How It Gush: Old News Book Reviews
Shon Meckfessel's Suffled How it Gush tells the story of the Balkans from the perspective of Beckett-quoting street kids, hard-luck drunks, black-eyed fighters, squatters, singers, and protesters. It's part punk travelogue, part history lesson, part anarchist theory. Fortunately it's also very good, which is why I'm posting about it here despite its tenuous connection to Bay Area radical history.
Shon happens to have been my high school boyfriend. I hope he doesn't mind my saying that we had a very sweet if chaste relationship. I recall many happy drives in his old Jetta, his right hand holding mine across the emergency brake, his left hand crossing himself when he needed to change gears. While I'm revealing Shon's secrets I'll also mention that he was the first bass player for Cake. I seem to remember he did a stint trucking tomatoes around the Central Valley too. In any case, he has found himself in writing. Suffled How it Gush is poignant, often funny, never sentimental. Reading it made me feel smarter. I love how Shon quotes his favorite hardcore bands and Hannah Arendt within pages of each other. I loved following his drunken travels among the disaffected of post-Communist Eastern Europe, even as I was grateful not to be sharing a train car with him and his satchel of dirty laundry.
Shon gives Balkan history lessons without resorting to nostalgia and describes contemporary life there without choosing national or ethnic loyalties. His friends are Serbian, Croatian, Romani, Muslims, Jews, travelers from around the world who optimistically refer to themselves as 'penguins' – those who refuse to define themselves by the nations where they were born. I hope I'm getting this right when I say that Shon's thesis comes down to the idea that nationalism and neo-liberal economics, not supposedly deep-seated ethnic hatreds, are the causes of crises in Serbia, Croatia, Cyprus, etc. War is shown to be both immoral and absurd through his friends' matter-of-fact stories of survival and tenacity amid NATO bombings and genocidal ethnic purges. Despite the built-in cynicism required of any self-respecting punk boy abroad, Shon shows a certain cheerful optimism, happily reveling in the chaos of the Eastern European Third World and dreaming of a kinder, stateless world. If you can find it, I hope you'll read it.