American Interior: The quixotic journey of John Evans, his search for a lost tribe and how, fuelled by fantasy and (possibly) booze, he accidentally annexed a third of North America Hardcover – 8 May 2014
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A joyous and poignant celebration of the mythical and the real (Caught by the River)
A charming and entertainingly written book (Independent)
The most comprehensive study yet of this strange historical figure (Sunday Express)
Written in an exuberant, entertaining style, American Interior is alive to the quixotic nature of Evans's quest, while offering a sideways look at the nexus between history and myth (Financial Times)
A story about gullibility, contradiction, ambition, inexplicable wanderlust . . . this brilliantly life-affirming book highlights a world of wonder far beyond orthodox history (John Harris Guardian)
About the Author
Gruff Rhys is known around the world for his work as a solo artist as well as singer and songwriter with Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon, and for his collaborations with Gorillaz, Dangermouse, Sparklehorse, Mogwai and Simian Mobile Disco amongst others. The latest album by Neon Neon, Praxis Makes Perfect, based on the life of radical Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, was recently performed as an immersive live concert with National Theatre Wales.
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Top Customer Reviews
To quote from the book itself - "Facts are fluids that occasionally overspill the vessel of truth. They leave a particular stain on the carpet that can take generations to fade away and if the carpet is woven from the absorbent wool of the Welsh imagination, they may never disappear entirely."
It's an inspiring, touching and thought provoking book. It references to the recent treatment of Native Americans has led me back to reread Peter Matthiessen's 'In the Spirit of Crazy Horse'. I can highly recommend it, as I can the app which makes a brilliant companion to the book and follows the story via three maps and completes the tail with short films and photos.
Gruff also commendably refrains from any form of speculation concerning the Madoc myth, sticking faithfully to the facts as we know them. Contrast, for example, with Ellen Pugh's "Brave his Soul" (which is full of unsubstantiated speculation) and also the work of any number of other dreamers who have put two and two together to make five.
As a Madoc agnostic who has researched this corner of history in detail, the only things I've uncovered which aren't in Gruff's book are firstly some insights from Nicolas de Finiel's "An Account of Upper Louisiana". De Finiel's was living in St Louis at the same time as Evans and his account came not from first hand experience but from interviewing explorers who had recently returned from the titular region. One interviewee (who isn't named) is particularly taken by the sophistication of Mandan pottery and believes it suggests pre Columbus contact with Europeans. The interviewee is also keen for the Mandan to be left alone and uncorrupted by the modern world. I can only imagine who the interviewee might be, but I'd be surprised if it was anyone other than Evans. I hasten to add that the archaeology of W. Raymond Wood suggests nothing out of the ordinary with Mandan pottery fragments but if Evans is the mysterious interviewee, it at least suggests there may be a disparity between the official records and what Evans himself believed. Likewise with Evans' letter to Samuel Jones, which was clearly written under the close gaze of Don Trudeau.Read more ›
These were supposed to have been descendants of the Welsh prince Madog who "discovered" America in 1170.
Evans spent about seven years in American and, although he never found his Welsh Indians, he made a great contribution to mapping much of which was virgin territory* before dying in New Orleans.
Rhys traveled around the Midwest, accompanied by a three foot ventriloquist doll-like replica of Evans made of felt, and describes the places and the many people he met.
Not one of them was a Welsh-speaking Indian, of course, but then again Rhys had never really expected to encounter any.
For me, this is the main drawback to this book. Rhys himself is a Welsh speaker and proud of his countryman's achievements but by making lame remarks and lighthearted asides, he spoils what could have been a better tribute.
He insults his own country by quoting the last of the Mandan speakers, the language Evans had thought might be Welsh, who says: "I've never heard of Wales, makes me think of those big sea creatures".
He also ignores the political side of Evans who ended up being commissioned, along with a Scotsman called MacKay, to work in the service of the Spanish governor of Louisiana and prevent the British from moving down from Canada and exploiting the territory.
This would have been an interesting angle to follow up especially at a time when Scotland and Wales are gaining more power as the present British state starts to crumble.
Nevertheless, it was quite a good read. It is also the first time I've read a book and followed it as a film with a soundtrack via YouTube.
*Rhys claims these maps were later used by the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Much enjoyed Gruff Rhys's style of writing. His idea to recreate the journey undertaken by his 18th century ancestor to discover the truth or not about the existence of the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Crofftwerdd
Even if you've heard the album, seen the film and done whatever it is you do with an app, this book is still very definitely worth a read. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Richard Belbin
A great story, engagingly written and funny. Read it. Gruff has got to be one of the greatest living Welshmen!Published 19 months ago by Mr A G Lewis
Engaging story of both John Evans' adventures in the 1700s, as well as Gruff Rhys' adventures following his ancestor's footsteps---poignant story told very well. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Lori Avirett-Mackenzie
Rhys is a charming, witty and clear-headed companion following what is, frankly, obviously, a fool's mission, but he succeeds brilliantly in making John Evans' life and journey,... Read morePublished 22 months ago by carlreader
Bought as a gift for my sons birthday. It was on his wish list!!Published on 5 July 2014 by mrs linda summers
Brilliant book that I bought on the strength of the album (being an old SFA fan) Perfect summer holiday reaingPublished on 2 July 2014 by Blue Forever