Michigan and the Great Lakes

A Frieze of Girls

Memoirs as Fiction
Allan Seager
Introduction by Charles Baxter
Shimmering style and elegance—with a dark side—from a first-rate but often-overlooked American writer


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.

Allan Seager wrote many highly praised short stories and novels, including Amos Berry. He had been a professor of English at the University of Michigan. He died in Tecumseh, Michigan, in 1968.

Praise / Awards

  • "A lovely book."
    New Yorker
  • "As a memoir, it gives a glimpse of an entire generation of American men whose struggles for dignity and maturity were, as often as not, both comical and dangerous simultaneously, as if they were on a road whose hairpin turns would force the driver to change direction in an instant."
    —Charles Baxter
  • "A quietly witty book containing some truly profound insights into what, for the want of a better expression, is called 'the American Experience.'"
    Library Journal
  • "For all the clean familiarity of his subjects, the essays sparkle with fresh insights.... In this these memories are utterly honest: we come to realize we have [been] learning alongside the story teller, coming of age."
    Rain Taxi

Product Details

  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4.
  • 264pp.
Available for sale worldwide

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  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08957-4

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  • $17.95 U.S.