The Strange World of Willie Seabrook by Marjorie Worthington
Trade paperback, 322 pages. Free domestic shipping.
This is the somber, quietly stunning account of American author Marjorie Worthington’s life and relationship with William Seabrook.
A bestselling writer on the exotic and the occult, Seabrook was an extraordinary figure from the 1920s to the 1940s who traveled widely and introduced voodoo and the concept of the “zombie” to Americans in his book The Magic Island.
In 1966, years after his death from suicide, Worthington, a novelist and Seabrook’s second wife, cast her eye on their years living in France as lost-generation expatriates; their time traveling in the Sahara desert (where Seabrook researched his book The White Monk of Timbuctoo); their friendships with Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, and Michel Leiris; and the gradual erosion of their relationship.
Worthington was with Seabrook in France and later New York when his life became consumed by alcohol, and he took the drastic step of committing himself to a mental institution for a cure; though he wrote about the institution in his book Asylum, he remained an alcoholic. He was also fixated by sadistic games he played with women, which he and the surrealist Man Ray photographed. He later viewed these sessions as a way to initiate altered psychological states through pain.
The Strange World of Willie Seabrook is an intimate look at the complicated, torturous relationship of two writers. Seabrook was a sadist, yet to Worthington he was also enthralling; he was an alcoholic, but she believed she could protect him. Even after he had hurt her emotionally, she stayed near him. In brilliantly depicted moments of folie à deux, we watch Worthington join Seabrook in his decline, and witness the shared claustrophobic, psychological breakdown that ensues.
Marjorie Worthington (1900–1976) was an American novelist, short story writer, and biographer. She met the popular author and journalist William Seabrook in 1926, and they wrote and traveled together throughout Europe and Africa until their divorce in 1941. Marjorie Worthington’s account of her life with Seabrook was her last major published work, which Kirkus Reviews described as an “intense, self-questioning memoir.”