"Moments Captured" is a novel based loosely on the work and life of the pioneering 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge. The book traces the camera’s development from total immobility to Muybridge’s invention of the world’s first motion picture projector in 1879. I feature the photographer’s work with Leland Stanford and the ingenious technical breakthroughs that enable Edward (I’ve adopted the simpler name for the fiction.) to stop time and capture the trotting horse in motion. The novel is not a biography. I’ve altered history by having Edward fall in love with the dancer Holly Hughes— thus his quest to catch her in motion, to examine beauty in its multiple and ever-changing aspects. I think of "Moments Captured" as a technological romance.
The novel journeys through the American West, and later takes up chilly, high altitude residence in the Sierra Nevada to document the inch-by-inch progress of the transcontinental railroad during the worst winter on record. "Moments Captured" features one murder, one attempted murder, an effort to liberate a Chinese prostitute, the eye-opening 1876 U.S Centennial Exhibition, and a dance performance in which Holly captivates her San Francisco audience only to be booed when she publicly announces her objections to the corset, which encases the body of every single woman in the audience. When Edward temporarily deserts Holly to document the progress of the Central Pacific for her sworn enemy Stanford, the “his and her” betrayals result in tragedy. A spectacular murder trial, an attempt on Muybridge’s life, Edward’s tireless documenting of human and animal locomotion, Holly’s escape abroad in the effort to forget both her dead and live lovers, these elements lead, at the book’s end, to a tentative reconciliation between Holly and Edward.
"The All American Game," a new novel by Robert J. Seidman. 30 July 2014
A deft, fast-paced excursion into the worlds of the Native American, of the gambling casino, of sports and sex. Characters who will stay with you, situations that pack drama into familiar and unfamiliar worlds.
Will Fox, the young Seneca protagonist of "The All American Game", is a bright wiseguy who’s a lacrosse star. After a dangerous, soul-searching stint in a high-security jail, Will tries to go straight by attending an elite, almost all-white Ivy League-type college. He’s in and out of trouble in the classroom, on the lacrosse field and in the winner-take-all attempt to secure a gambling casino for the Iroquois. In the quest for the gambling mecca he’s the protégé of his unforgettable grandfather, Standing Bear, who has an ingrained distrust—alright, hatred—of the white man. The reader’s tossed back and forth as Will makes the challenging sometimes instantaneous commute between two very different cultures. Meanwhile, Will’s off-and-on devotion to his Mohawk love Anne runs into complications when he becomes involved with an upscale young white woman. The exciting climax of the public action comes when the Tribe inches very close to a deal for a casino with the New York State legislature.
Book II of "The All American Game" will dramatically detail Will and Iroquois’ struggle to make the casino a reality. Book III in the series will present the soaring highs and plummeting lows of running a new gambling casino in Upstate New York. Racial issues, sex, politics, Native American traditions under stress combine to make this trio of novels unforgettable page-turners. Read "The All American Game," Part I, today.
Seidman’s the author of three previous novels. "One Smart Indian" (Overlook Press, 1980; never out of print) was extolled by the chief reviewer of the New York Times, John Leonard:
“One Smart Indian. . . is very good indeed. . . One of the nice aspects of Mr. Seidman is that he does not shy away from difficult narrative moments . . . .These pages . . . are stunning. Culture shock becomes art. The organization of knowledge is itself a weapon and a prison. . . . One Smart Indian is an astonishing act of empathy, imagination on a rampage. Someone has taken the trouble to write a novel that is interesting without being cheap.”
The author’s 2014 novel, "Moments Captured," has been greeted by multiple raves. See Seidman’s Amazon site for critics’ and readers’ responses. "Moments Captured" is published by The Overlook Press in cloth, paper and as an E-book. The novel has also been published in England by The Duckworth Press.
Seidman recreates the struggles of photographer Edward Muybridge un late 19th-century San Francisco. America stands on the cusp of tremendous technological advances: the days of high finance and robber barons, completion of the first transcontinental railroad and spectacular advances in photography. The ambitious Muybridge is crossing the country with his expensive cameras in a Conestoga wagon, along the way photographing the advancements of the Central Pacific Railroad championed by Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Hollis P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins. Muybridge’s photographic history captures the daily images of progress and its collateral damage in lost lives.
￼Two people are pivotal to Muybridge’s immediate future at this point in his life: Leland Stanford, the great robber baron and railroad promoter; and dancer/feminist Holly Hughes, an educated, freethinking young woman who captures the photographer’s heart. Though Holly cautions about Stanford’s potential demands should he engage Edward, Muybridge is seduced by opportunity. Stanford funds the means of expanding the experiments that burn like fire in the young man’s imagination, pushing him to create new techniques, to capture images never before attempted.
Underestimating the power of Holly’s imprint on his psyche—a fearless feminist unafraid to profess her views or express her affection—Muybridge seeks to please both, an impossible task. Fooling himself about Stanford’s motivations and respect for him as an individual, Edward risks everything to accomplish his dream, only to find that Holly has slipped away. The result it tragic, the loss irrevocable as Muybridge confronts the cost of his choices. From his first meeting with both Hughes and Stanford, Seidman fills his novel with the excitement of the era, the advances of science and inventions, the mechanism for capturing history in the making, and a widening appreciation for technological advances that portend an industrialized future in a country driven by capitalism.
Muybridge is one of a breed of forward-thinking individuals excited by visions of future accomplishments—one of a handful of geniuses as the whole country awakens to the opportunities afforded by modern science. In this context, the photographer’s attraction to Stanford’s wealthy is understandable, the easiest pathway to long-imagined success. Equally powerful is Muybridge’s attraction to Holly Hughes, an exceptional woman with a bright mind and the determination to deliver her message to a reluctant patriarchal society, the most loyal friend Muybridge will ever have.
Muybridge’s humanity informs his tragic downfall, the course of his life altered in a moment of unthinking passion. A great love story, the unusual union of Muybridge and Hughes drives the narrative of the photographer’s life, but the American quest for progress is another important character in this fascinating period drama: “Photography’s like progress. It constantly moves ahead.”
A rousing novel of the American West, of progress in photography and the transformation of the way we see, of the epic struggle to complete the Transcontinental Railroad at an incalculable human cost, of a romance both doomed yet capable of withstanding murder itself.
One Smart Indian
"One Smart Indian is an astonishing act of empathy, imagination on a rampage. One of the nice aspects of Mr. Seidman is that he doesn't shy away from difficult narrative moments. Someone has taken the trouble to write a novel that is interesting without being cheap."
–John Leonard, New York Times
This novel has been in print since 1977. The Overlook Press paperback was first published in 1979.
Bucks County Idyll
Positive reviews extolled the novel's ability to combine compelling mystery with a fascinating story about a young couple's relationship and class in America.
Ulysses Annotated: An Annotation of James Joyce's Ulysses
(University of California Press). Don Gifford with Robert Seidman.
Since its publication in 1974, this definitive annotation of Joyce's great novel has never been out of print. The University of California Press issued a 20th anniversary edition in 2008.