A real-time review by Marni Scofidio
‘Two men. Two Quests. Two Centuries Apart.’
AMERICAN INTERIOR by Gruff Rhys
Hardcover edition, published by Hamish Hamilton, publication date 2014. Purchased online.
Being the account of the attempt of a co-founder of the Super Furry Animals to retrace the quixotic journey of his ancestor, Ieuan ab Ifan, slave name John Thomas Evans, of Waunfawr, near Caernarfon, to find Prince Madoc’s Welsh-speaking Native Americans, accidentally annexing a third of North America in the process. In three acts and an epilogue, with dramatis personae.
‘In the summer of 2012 Gruff Rhys – himself a distant relative of Evans – retraced the explorer’s route through the heart of the continent by means of an Investigative Concert TourTM – a series of solo gigs accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar, a PowerPoint presentation, and a three-foot-high felt avatar of John Evans.’ – from dust jacket blurb
Madoc, who is said to have sailed for the Americas ca. 1170 from the beach I can see from my studio window, is probably one of the best known of the legendary princes of North Wales. AMERICAN INTERIOR encompasses Welsh and American eccentrics, old and new; eccentricity is a dying trait and needs both cultivation and celebration lest we drown in an tsunami of bland televisual homogeneity. We need our crackpots, kooks, and divine lunatics, aka enthusiasts. (My other favourite source of information for Evans is the wonderfully titled Great British Nutters website.)
AMERICAN INTERIOR also addresses culture, language, and attempts on both sides of the pond by the unenlightened to eradicate both. Finally, it’s one of those towering adventures, ‘fuelled by booze and fantasy’, that appeal to intrepid travellers of body, mind and/or spirit. In the end I chose this book to celebrate the achievements of this website’s owner, an intrepid explorer of fantastical land- and seascapes himself.
Gruff (pronounced ‘Griff’) Rhys produced not only a book but a film and an album, so I can, if I wish, commence my real-time book review submerged in multi-media. I’ll start once the weather calms down a bit, i.e. gets cooler, 15-17° Celsius being the preferred heat setting of mud-dwellers like me.
Also, in the words of DFL, as I real-time review this book, my thoughts will appear in the comments stream below or, if I’ve done it right, fingers crossed, by clicking on this post’s title above.