E. J. O'Brien, founding editor of the Best American Short Stories series, once named Allan Seager third, after Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, in the "apostolic succession of the American short story." With such company it's a wonder that Seager's work has been largely forgotten since his death. Fortunately, this new edition brings this neglected master once again to light.
A Frieze of Girls is Seager's coming-of-age story, from his high-school summer as a sometime cowboy in the Big Horn mountains to a first job at seventeen managing an antiquated factory in Memphis to the author's hard-drinking scholarship year in Oxford, cut short by tuberculosis. Comic at times yet just as often with an undercurrent of pain, the stories in A Frieze of Girls remind us of the realities we create to face the world, and in turn of the realities of the world we must inevitably also confront. "Time makes fiction out of our memories," writes Seager. "We all have to have a self we can live with and the operation of memory is artistic—selecting, suppressing, bending, touching up, turning our actions inside out so that we can have not necessarily a likable, merely a plausible identity."
A Frieze of Girls is Seager at the top of his form, and reminds us that great writing transcends both time and the vagaries of literary fashion.