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A man whose pursuit of literary respectability was outpaced by his love of booze and bondage

The face of the main character, often strained, often sweaty, appears in almost every panel of “The Abominable Mr. Seabrook’’ (Drawn and Quarterly), Joe Ollmann’s graphic biography of American journalist William Seabrook. Ollmann reveals a man whose pursuit of literary respectability was outpaced by his love of booze and bondage, a traveler who earned fame for his lurid portraits of exotic cultures in the early 20th century. (Our current glut of zombie-themed entertainments is owing in part to “The Magic Island,’’ Seabrook’s 1929 book on voodoo in Haiti.) Ollmann’s work is largely a chronicle of Seabrook’s failures: his inability to quit drinking, escape the era’s reductive anthropological clichés, overcome his fear of failure. Seabrook’s frustration pervades these pages, and one feels inclined, if not to root for the man, at least to pity him.

NINA MACLAUGHLIN

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