Geist - - Endnotes - —Jill Man­drake

In The Abom­inable Mr. Seabrook (Drawn & Quar­terly), Joe Oll­mann be­gins with a re­flec­tive pream­ble called “Me and Mr. Seabrook,” part of which reads, “I re­al­ized that no one knew about Seabrook’s work— all his books were out of print at the time…” I imag­ine no one is fa­mil­iar with Seabrook’s work now, but many of us Baby Boomers would have come across his best­sellers on our par­ents’ book­shelves. That’s cer­tainly how I dis­cov­ered him—i pulled Ad­ven­tures in Ara­bia from Mom & Pop’s cab­i­net, and then avidly sought out Seabrook’s other work, some of which was still avail­able in used book­shops. Wil­liam

Seabrook wrote with grip­ping ve­rac­ity about other cul­tures, mys­te­ri­ous in­di­vid­u­als and al­tered states of mind. It is said that Seabrook pop­u­lar­ized the term “zom­bie” in the west, with the 1929 book The Magic Is­land. I used to won­der if he also in­tro­duced the re­mote re­gion of Tim­buktu into the West­ern ver­nac­u­lar, with 1934’s The White Monk of Tim­buc­too. He wrote about his own life, No Hid­ing Place, with the same ad­ven­tur­ous spirit. Cu­ri­ously, Seabrook’s sec­ond wife, Mar­jorie Wor­thing­ton, wrote a bi­og­ra­phy called The Strange World of Wil­lie Seabrook, which varies con­sid­er­ably from Seabrook’s ac­count. At one point she con­cluded, “Wil­lie […] al­ways told the truth. His truth.” It re­minds me of the one-liner: “There are al­ways two sides to a story and they’re both true.” A touch­ing fore­word from Oll­mann reads, “The big­gest thing I re­al­ized is the heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity of bi­og­ra­phy […] I re­ally didn’t want to make a mess of Wil­lie’s life, messy as it was.” I feel com­pelled to as­sure him he’s made no mess at all. His trib­ute to Wil­liam Seabrook couldn’t be more thor­ough, or more re­spect­ful. Two of Seabrook’s books have re­cently been reprinted: The Magic Is­land (his ad­ven­tures in Haiti) and Asy­lum (his ad­ven­tures in a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal). So far, they’ve been slow to re­gain pop­u­lar­ity. Oll­mann’s bi­og­ra­phy, on the other hand, is snow­balling; there are al­ready a dozen holds on The Abom­inable Mr. Seabrook at my lo­cal li­brary.

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