PURELY DESCTRUCTIVE CRITICISIM.
From The Morning News:
Robert Penn Warren, Carl Sandburg, and Sherwood Anderson himself all testified to Seager’s talent and skill. Poet and novelist James Dickey said he owed his career to reading Amos Berry, Seager’s third, and by many accounts, best novel, once remarking, “I doubt if I’d’ve tried to be a poet if it weren’t for Charles Berry [Amos’s son and the novel’s narrator]. There was no call for poetry in my background… But he wanted to try, and he kept on with it. So I did, too.”
Today, while Anderson and Hemingway are in the permanent canon, even at the time of his death in 1968 Seager was not widely known. Toward the end, he’d declare his own superiority to William Faulkner, whom he considered a minor, regional writer, while lamenting his own obscurity and recognizing his likely disappearance. He abandoned a last novel to complete a biography (The Glass House) of fellow Michigander and friend Theodore Roethke. Seager figured that his name might live on as long as Roethke was remembered.
Like all writers, he wanted to be listened to because he thought he had something important to say. The abandoned novel was to be about the dangers of humans living as slaves to automation as seen in Ford’s assembly line and the advancing computer age. In his notes, he remarked on an incident told to him by a female friend who worked for a survey research firm in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Whenever she goes into the room with the computer, it sulks and spits back cards and (because of this) they have asked her to keep out. I think this is grotesque.”
In those same notes, he declared his intentions for the novel in all caps:
WHY DO I COME BEFORE YOU NOW WITH THIS SHEAF OF PAGES TO TRY TO ENGAGE YOUR ATTENTION? IF YOU PLOW THROUGH THESE PAGES, WHAT WILL HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU BY THE TIME YOU FINISH THEM? (I WOULD LIKE TO TEAR YOU APART, O WELL-EDUCATED MIDDLE CLASS READER. TEAR YOU APART AND LEAVE YOU IN PIECES AND NO SUGGESTION FROM THE KING’S MEN ON HOW TO GET BACK TOGETHER. PURELY DESCTRUCTIVE CRITICISIM.) [sic]
I remember Allan Seager because he was my great uncle—my paternal grandmother, Jane, was his younger sister. But “remember” is the wrong word, as Allan died two years before I was born, and well before that a falling out between the siblings over their father’s post-stroke care drove them permanently apart.