You know those pull quotes that always litter the covers of half-baked airport thrillers and self-help guides that purport to have been written by double-digit IQ Instagram gurus of the week that always claim that the book you’re holding will change your life? Of course, you do, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably laughed so hard at the absurdity of the idea that said quotes are peddling that you’ve damn near had an embolism or temporarily lost control of your bladder, which is embarrassing enough in a bar, but when it happens in a book store… And because the notion being pushed on countless dust jackets seemed, and still seems, so ridiculous, I’ve never bought into it. Until I read Miles Per Gallon.
Actually, that isn’t completely true. Magrann’s book won’t make your life better and reading it won’t make you a better person or fundamentally alter the way you relate to your peers and the way you view life, the universe, and everything in between. But it will significantly change your perspective on what it means to be in a band, the value of friendship, and how seemingly insignificant moments that would otherwise be lost in a miasma of millions of other insignificant moments can change your fate and the path you thought you were meant to follow through life. Equal parts tour journal, travelogue and autobiography, Miles Per Gallon is the semi-fictionalised account of a coast-to-coast American tour that Mike’s band CH3 ventured out on in 1983. It’s the story of a young man and his best friends exploring the world beyond the suburbs that they grew up in for the first time and the wonder, adventure, and chaos that they discover on the open road and in the clubs that formed the backbone of the scene when Hardcore was still shiny and new. It’s a tale of the everyday discrimination and bigotry that the author, his family, and friends faced for just being who they were in a world that didn’t, and to a large degree still doesn’t, tolerate anyone who might look slightly different to the rest of the herd. And it is never less than brilliant.
Magrann litters his factu-fictional account of life on the highways and byways of yesterday with imaginative asides that sowed the seeds for a million different lives in a million different possible universes, and with each revealing glimpse of his psyche, you’ll feel a little more comfortable in his literary company. Imagine a more wistful, punk rock, music-obsessed version of Anthony Bourdain, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the narrative journey that Magrann pursues in Miles Per Gallon, and it’s a journey that once started, you’ll never want to end. If you’ve ever thought about just throwing a backpack over your shoulder and seeing where the road takes you, can’t live without the volume dial turned all the way up, or are subservient to the embrace of the punk rock scene, then you need to read this book. It might not change your life, but while you’re immersed in its pages, it will make you believe in the endless possibilities of tomorrow… Tim Cundle