Five Minutes with Don Evans
Who's Asking? A Short Unsolicited AutobiographyI'm a stay-at-home dad who also, in the dead of the night or before dawn, writes fiction. I live with my wife Margaret and son Dustin in Oak Park, on the near western border of Chicago. It is the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, who early on I wanted to be, if not write, like. But I never developed a taste for absinthe and find that African safaris create scheduling nightmares with the film and lit class I teach on Tuesday nights.
I mostly write about Chicago because it's the only place, of all the places I've experienced, that I know and love like a brother. I've lived in Champaign, Syracuse, South Amana, Detroit, London; I've traveled through most of the United States, much of Europe, and a sampling of Asia. Yet, there's only one place of which, if somebody were to name an intersection, or even rattle off an address, I can close my eyes and picture the people, the commerce, and its evolution over the course of the past twenty years.
I admire gritty, muscular authors like Nelson Algren, but also witty, feathery writers like P.G. Wodehouse. I guess I've tried to split the difference. I empathize with gamblers and whores and the generally luckless, but I'd prefer they didn't cry about it in public. I love the William Matthews poem that begins, "Lucky and Unlucky mean the same thing, like flammable and inflammable." The perfect novel, to my tastes, might be John Kennedy Toole's The Confederacy of Dunces, but the perfect library that of Twain or Dickens.
In addition to my soon-to-be-published first novel, Good Money After Bad, I have had a number of stories published in literary journals, most notably one that Best American Short Stories included in its 2001 list of "100 Most Distinguished." That story, "An Off-White Christmas," is the centerpiece of a collection on which I'm just putting the finishing touches. I've also finished a novel, Surrender Dorothy that needs a publisher.
Like a lot of fiction writers, I've funded my work through other work. I have a bachelors of science degree in journalism (University of Illinois) and a masters of fine art in fiction writing (Syracuse University), all of which has entitled me to work as a reporter, editor, marketing guy, teacher and several other jobs (barback, bookie, camp counselor) that probably didn't require seven years of higher education. Currently, I teach literature and history part-time at Westwood College's O'Hare campus.
Dusty recently turned two a half. Raising a child and writing are not so different, though doing the two simultaneously is a knife-throwing act. A lot of it is routine -- boring but critical daily rituals that at some point can be called habit. But there is always a moment of pure magic just around the corner. It's an amusing, hard and satisfying way to spend so much time, and just when progress seems deathly slow, whoa!, he's walking and talking and shitting in the toilet.