The Abominable Mr Seabrook: a sympathetic biography of an unsympathetic, forgotten literary legend

Originally published at:

William Seabrook was once one of America’s foremost literary stars; now he is all but forgotten. Seabrook travelled the world, writing a series of (decreasingly sympathetic) accounts of indigenous people and their culture, outselling the literary giants he kept company with, and who pretended not to mind the women he paid to let him tie them up and keep around his home. In The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, graphic novelist Joe Ollman presents an unflinching look at Seabrook, his literary accomplishments and failures, his terrible self-destructiveness, and the awful spiral that took him from the heights of American letters to an ignominious suicide after his discharge from a psychiatric facility.

1 Like

It’s Yazidi, not Yadizi, fyi.

1 Like

While I’m quite willing to believe that Seabrook’s WP article is in error and that his own book, the one to which @doctorow alludes above, Asylum, is another fabrication like the participation in West African cannibalism, I would be interested to know @doctorow source (the book under review, and if so what is its source?) for the assertion that he was committed involuntarily, and not voluntarily as the other available sources assert. I don’t suppose it greatly matters, but I find it ironic that a (no doubt perfectly innocent) typo could be read as the same sort of sensationalism of which the subject was himself guilty.

I recognize that if it is a typo, Cory is unlikely to correct it. I merely point it out for others to be aware of.

An amazing thing about Seabrook is that he was the author of “Dr. Wood,” the biography of the renowned experimental physicist, Robert W. Wood, at Johns Hopkins. Wood was pivotal in his contributions to optics, and had many unusual adventures besides, like learning to throw the war boomerang. He once demonstrated it at a football game, throwing it so low over the heads of the crowd, that it took an umbrella on the way back. He learned to play a couple of very showy piano pieces by rote, and he would toss off the Grande Valse Brilliante when people asked him if he could play. Then he would say he only knew one or two small things, and refuse to play any more. I first read the book in junior high school, and from that day to this have had no idea who the author was! So thanks, Cory!

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.