Evan Gillespie has been an arts journalist and critic for the past 20 years, and in his spare time, he teaches eager college students how to be effective consumers and creators of visual culture. His first novel, Backpaddling: A River Adventure in Reverse, was published in early 2015. He lives in the Midwest.
You just published your first novel, Backpaddling: A River Adventure in Reverse. How did the project come about?
I've been working on this book for years, but my journalistic writing--the stuff that pays the bills--has always gotten in the way of my turning out a finished novel. The publishing world has changed so much in the past decade, though, that now it's feasible for me to send this book out into the world. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Backpaddling is part comedy, part history, part political commentary, part travelogue. How would you classify the novel?
I set out, first of all, to write a story about a journey. I'd been reading lots of travel writing, and I was intrigued by the idea of turning a nonfiction travel narrative into a fictional story of personal transformation. I was inspired by The Odyssey, but I wanted my story to be more fun, and I wanted it to have an element of truth in it. I wanted the boundary between fiction and reality to be blurry.
Culture critic Evan Gillespie has been slinging his opinions about books at readers for over a decade. The "What Were We Thinking?!" series collects the best of his book-oriented essays and presents them to a new generation of readers. Because, you know, he's all about educating the youngsters.
From big-game hunting to understanding NASCAR, women face the challenges of the 21st century with determination and strength. Well, most of them do. Some of them think obsessively about clothes and sex instead. Evan Gillespie reviews a handful of books that, although written by women, are instructive for everyone as examples of the myriad ways that millennial women see themselves.
Zombies, demons, psychotic killers, ravenous predators, vengeful teenagers--all the scariest characters from horror fiction show up in this collection of essays and reviews, an opinionated meditation on how the horror genre has been getting in our faces lately.
It’s the summer of 2004, and a Harvard-educated journalist sets off on an outdoor adventure, expecting to find the essence of America in the uncharted backwaters of his adopted Heartland home. Instead, his trip is undone by drug dealers, monster hunters and his own rapidly disintegrating personal life.