Bookshots: 'The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory' By Stacy Wakefield
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory
Who wrote it?
Writer and designer, Stacy Wakefield.
Plot in a Box:
Sid is your typical 90’s kid, idealistic and in love with art and music, and feels like the only place in the world where she belongs is in the over populated gutter punk squats of Manhattan’s lower east side. The whole problem is that Manhattan is rapidly becoming a no squat zone, so Sid and her friends head out to establish a squat in the near apocalyptic wastelands of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Invent a new title for this book:
The Dogs Of Williamsburg
Read this if you liked:
Pretty much anything by Jane Smiley.
Meet the book’s lead:
Sid, idealistic artist and wannabe anarchist.
Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:
Setting: Would you want to live there?
The Williamsburg of now, sure. The Williamsburg of the 90’s, absolutely fucking not.
What was your favorite sentence?
We’d both given up trying to be vegan, we both thought the Ramones were overrated and secretly loved Guns’n’Roses, we both had Infest and Born Against patches on our backpacks.
The Verdict :
I’m going to freely admit that during the 90’s, I was not a fan of squatter culture. I only really interacted with squats in Berkeley and Seattle, and those interactions left a sour taste in my mouth. I felt squatters were cliquey and druggy, and that living in abandoned warehouses and crumbling apartment buildings wasn’t so much about building a community of like minded, freedom loving individuals as it was about having people around who would be willing to go in on a couple of eight-balls with you. There were always a few people in the scene who did view squatting as a kind of grand experiment in free living. Of course, these folks were always the organizers of squats, and generally speaking, they were also always the first ones who would get pushed out by the dopers and douche bags.
The picture that Stacy Wakefield paints in The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory of the gutter punk/squatter culture that sprung up around clubs like ABC No Rio is near identical to what I experienced. There was always a couple of good, hard working people who really wanted to make a go of communal, free living, and then there was the greater mass who wanted nothing more than to fuck shit up, including themselves. Wakefield’s protagonist, Sid, is one of the good, earnest people who see squatting as an opportunity to move past the tedious trappings of consumer culture. Unfortunately, most of the people she surrounds herself with are either complete assholes or emotional time bombs.
Now, personal thoughts on squatting aside, The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory is a good novel. Wakefield’s conversational tone keeps the narrative flowing and you really can’t help but like Sid because of her optimistic view of squatting (and the world in general) and her squat mates. But, because of Sid’s overall sunny disposition, she’s almost an unreliable narrator, and is unable to see the people she chooses to surround herself with as the self-centered jerks that most of them are and present them in an honest light to the reader, and this is the novel’s greatest flaw. Because as much as I admire optimistic storytelling, a little bit of pessimism can go a long way in creating an honest and engaging narrative.
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