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American Interior: The Quixotic Journey of John Evans [Kindle Edition]

Gruff Rhys

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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)

A charming and entertainingly written book (Independent)

High entertainment . . . 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 joyous and poignant celebration of the mythical and the real (Caught by the River)

The most comprehensive study yet of this strange historical figure . . . leavened with Rhys's wry humour and neat turns of phrase (Sunday Express)

Rhys has now been a conduit for good ideas for over two decades. You can't help wishing there were more like him (Q Magazine)


American Interior is a psychedelic historical travelogue from Welsh pop legend Gruff Rhys.

In 1792, John Evans, a twenty-two-year-old farmhand from Snowdonia, Wales, travelled to America to discover whether there was indeed, as widely believed, a tribe of Welsh-speaking native Americans still walking the great plains.

In 2012, Gruff Rhys set out on an 'investigative concert tour' in the footsteps of John Evans, with concerts in New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St Louis, North Dakota and more.

American Interior is the story of these journeys. It is also an exploration of how wild fantasies interact with hard history and how myth-making can inspire humans to partake in crazy, vain pursuits of glory, including exploration, war and the creative arts.

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.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 10093 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 303 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0241965365
  • Verlag: Penguin (8. Mai 2014)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Erweiterte Schriftfunktion: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #575.682 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

  •  Ist der Verkauf dieses Produkts für Sie nicht akzeptabel?

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.3 von 5 Sternen  3 Rezensionen
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen In-depth review of a fantastic tale, and its re-creations 20. Dezember 2014
Von John L Murphy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
At twenty-one, John Evans left his Welsh farm. Arriving in Baltimore in 1792, he set off from the Alleghany Mountains into uncharted heartland. He sought a lost tribe of Welsh Indians.

His distant descendant by a maternal uncle, Welsh musician Gruff Rhys, is best known for his singing and songwriting as a founder of Super Furry Animals, and currently as a solo artist and a member of Neon Neon. Long intrigued by his forebear, Rhys pursues Evans' path on an ambitious 2012 "investigative concert tour" up the great rivers of Mid-America into the Great Plains. It's all documented in a "psychedelic historic travelogue", an album, a film directed by Dylan Goch, and a bilingual app mingling these media from Penguin (the last I have not seen; I recommend the whole triple experience of record and film alongside the book; I reviewed the music under its own heading here...).

"It sounds like a joke: here were a Scotsman and a Welshman employed by a Spanish king, leading a boat full of French speakers into the precarious tribal waters of the Mississippi." Furthermore, John Evans sought to rid the West of the British, reach the Pacific, capture a unicorn, grab a seashell or two as proof, and then return for a two-thousand peso reward from Spanish Louisiana's governor, at a time when British Canada threatened to sweep south into Mexico, after French Canada succumbed to the British Empire, and as the American expansion under Thomas Jefferson eyed territory which the Spanish feared losing.

Into this geopolitical arena, young Evans entered. For five years, he mapped many blank spots and tried to verify what Rhys rightly calls the "most useful invention" of Prince Madoc. Supposed to have arrived from Wales in 1170 and rumored to have spawned a clan of Welsh-speaking natives who mingled with, or were, the Mandan of the present-day Dakota states, Madoc's reputation endured. In colonial America, a few Welsh emigrants swore they had met tribesmen who answered them in their common language. Rhys labels these as "ear-witness accounts". He explains how these settlers made Madoc "a tangible hero" among those pioneers who confused, for example, Kentucky's "Padoucas" with the supposedly Welsh "Magodwys" who had perpetuated their customs in Native America. This legend had persisted from Elizabethan times. Madoc's landfall (purported at Mobile Bay, Alabama) was appropriated by the English Crown, in a concerted effort to concoct noble lineage and irrefutable prior proof that the British could lay claim to the continent their forays now forced open to conquest.

As a Welsh speaker, Rhys brings the advantage of judging not only the discredited claims for Madoc, but providing comparisons between Welsh and Native American predicaments. The details of his expedition I will leave for you to discover in Rhys' presentations in multimedia.

Rhys tracks Evans on his journey, even if his firsthand manuscripts have been lost and we must rely on those who met with him, corresponded, and copied his discoveries into their own reports. There are a couple of minor errors I caught in spot-checking; these appear to be tracked to Rhys' source, Gwyn A. Williams' 1979 book on the myth of Madoc. In his own account, Rhys discusses his musical interpretation of Evans' undertaking sporadically. Although Rhys is on the road as not only an adventurer and interviewer but as a working musician, a reader needs a wider sense of how this "investigative concert tour" succeeded. Mentions of appearances, scattered lyrics, and a few comments from fans gain transcription. Rhys sees the sights and relates folksy or impassioned chats. The best of these happen on the prairies with native activists, and in Louisiana among voudou haunts. But many other places blur. Some characters barely register.

Therefore, the film (to be released on DVD April 2015, in the U.S.) and the album fill in what the book may allude to or skim past. Rhys' PowerPoint presentation for American audiences, his rock songs worked out on the road, and his interviews (some with English subtitles, as the documentary aired on SC/4, the Welsh-language BBC channel) enrich the experience as he retraces Evans' steps. While Evans' tale has been scrutinized by previous scholars, Rhys admits he has found a bit to add to Evans' saga, given their common language, and thanks to Rhys' recent archival research in Seville.

Out of his thin family tie, on a search for origins, Rhys connects with Evans poignantly. It's in an eerie, prescient form left for the reader, listener, or viewer to witness. The Welsh imagined a few natives in America had forged a congenial community and that they had lived as inheritors of Welsh customs, for hundreds of years. Out of such suppositions, the true and the imaginary create a kind of "common" sense, even if this conceit fails as commonsense. This expresses an elusive awareness beyond mere fact. In American Interior's multimedia endeavor, as innovative as an app, as venerable as an old map inspiring an epic, Gruff Rhys honors his ancestor, Ieuan ab Ifan (renamed John Evans by the English), as natives do. Rhys and Evans share, two centuries apart, a tribal Welsh vision quest.
3.0 von 5 Sternen Flawed Tribute to an Adventurous Young Welshman 30. Juni 2015
Von John Fitzpatrick - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Gruff Rhys is a musician who decided that, during a tour of the US in 2012, he would follow the route of a Welshman called John Evans who, in 1792, had tried to track down Welsh-speaking Indians living on the Great Plains.

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.
2 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Following the paper (Dragon) trail 5. November 2014
Von Jimi Jac - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I'm always a little wary when music folk try out another artistic genre (have you seen any of McCartney's painting), especially considering that English is Gruff Rhys second language.
Unfortunately I found "American Interior" a little dry, I was expecting a surreal & none-linear journey that tied Gruff with his descendant John Evans.
Gruff has clearly a lot of warmth, affection & enthusiasm, & the subject matter is extremely well researched; but that still doesn't make for a good read.
Evans obviously led a fascinating life, but the absence of a journal makes his importance as an historical figure mere speculation. Plus his contribution to mapping the uncharted parts of America seems a little over-stated.
Also Gruff own journey seems a little dull, his tries to add a bit of excitement by adding tales of being chased across state-lines by truck drivers, or meeting a Voodoo Queen, but they seem a little exaggerated to spice up his part of the story.
So all in all a bit of a effort to read, but a great accompanying album though.
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