Doctor Stories / Edition 1

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The Doctor Stories is Richard Selzer's selection of his own short stories, culled from three decades of writing, along with two new stories and an introduction detailing his literary beginnings. Drawing from his classic books, Selzer portrays the interactions of people at moments of crisis and drama. His signature style is apparent in every sentence: humane, observant, passionately descriptive, and particular, always connecting the intimate with the largest questions of life and death.

"...a collection of short stories, essays, and one novella exploring what it means to be a doctor, to tend to the sick and dying, and to heal...portrays the interactions of people at moments of crisis and drama."

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Medical Association
The Doctor Stories identifies strength in frailty, rapture in healing, and meaning in the single details of everyday life. Selzer's collected work is disturbing and biting, touching and uplifting. It is exactly the kind of literature that physicians should seek out and savor. This book is highly recommended to all and should justly be considered one of the most important collections of medical fiction in the last 25 years.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Only two stories in this collection of 27 tales and essays are new, but they and the lengthy introduction offer a good sampling of both the strengths and flaws of Selzer's prose. The tone is set in the discursive, self-conscious introduction when the former surgeon declaims one time too many that he is not a genius. He also admits that "The language is as far from the minimal as you can get." Indeed, it is this tendency toward verbal overload, the use of fustian flourishes and arch literary allusions, that prevents many of these tales from achieving their potential. Selzer's insights into human nature, especially in moments of trauma or grief, are often profound, and his precise articulations of the workings of the human body are at all times arresting. There are some resonant metaphors in all these short narratives: "His words were ivory balls that rolled through her one into the other, setting up echoes, clicking." But Selzer often destroys the effect by exaggerating his characters' emotional responses. In "Avalanche," a story of a woman's doomed love for a gaucho in a remote corner of the Argentinean pampas, the menace and mystical premonitions are forced and overwrought. "Angel, Turning a Lute," is a story within a story that is an admirable exercise in style whose elements do not fuse. On the other hand, many of the other tales, compiled from four previous collections Confessions of a Knife, etc., are trenchant and moving. In the end, this uneven collection impresses readers with the author's perceptions of the fine line between good health and sudden death, daily life and tragedy, and the capacity of people to deal with the deepest traumas and to survive with dignity.
Kirkus Reviews
A sampling of the writer/surgeon's short fiction, 25 tales drawn from four volumes (Imagine a Woman, 1990, etc.). Selzer provides a lengthy, rather discursive, and quite typically charming introduction, yet never explains why these particular stories were selected. Though he says that "my real subject is language itself," this is only partially true; while Selzer's prose is rich and his cadence measured ("It's my pleasure to use as much of the English language as I can"), it's the subject matter that make these tales so distinctive. No other writer in recent memory has so well fathomed the complex ways in which illness tests and alters us, the often unavailing (and clumsy) struggles of physicians to heal body or spirit, or the ways in which, in the face of mortality, we attempt to assert, to define, our fragile humanity. The best tales focus on the particulars of such struggles: "Tube Feeding" traces the despairing love of a husband for his wife, who's dying of an especially horrible malady; 'Pipistrel" describes, with considerable originality, a mother's attempt to help her autistic son create art; "Whither Thou Goest" follows a woman's urgent quest to track down the recipient of her husband's heart several years after she had donated his organs. She yearns to hear it beating once again. And "Imagine a Woman" shows how a woman, dying of AIDS, slowly finds herself easing into a rapturous acceptance of life and its end. A useful introduction to a distinctive body of work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312204037
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Selzer is a former surgeon and Yale School of Medicine professor. He has received many awards for his writing, including a National Magazine Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship. He is the author of several collections of stories and essays as well as a memoir. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Avalanche 20
Angel, Tuning a Lute 49
Whither Thou Goest 64
Imelda 83
Fetishes 98
Tube Feeding 108
Pipistrel 114
The Masked Marvel's Last Toehold 136
Mercy 142
Poe's Light-house 147
Tillim 172
Sarcophagus 176
Pages from a Wound Dresser's Diary 186
The Mirror: A Tale of Aran 200
Alexis St. Martin 209
Raccoon 224
Four Appointments with the Discus Thrower 227
Luis 231
Imagine a Woman 261
"The Black Swan" Revisited 290
Tom and Lily 309
A Worm from My Notebook 335
Witness 342
Chatterbox 347
Impostor 354
Semiprivate, Female 377
Brute 386
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