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Raising the Dead

Overview

On a spring afternoon in 1991, Richard Selzer, a retired surgeon and renowned medical essayist, collapsed while gazing from his study window. He was rushed to the hospital where he had practiced for many years, his former colleagues frantically struggling to contain the chaos toward which his body's systems were rampaging. Diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, Selzer lapsed into a coma and began a painful journey to a place where there was "more than a hint of death." Raising the Dead is Selzer's vivid account of...
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Overview

On a spring afternoon in 1991, Richard Selzer, a retired surgeon and renowned medical essayist, collapsed while gazing from his study window. He was rushed to the hospital where he had practiced for many years, his former colleagues frantically struggling to contain the chaos toward which his body's systems were rampaging. Diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, Selzer lapsed into a coma and began a painful journey to a place where there was "more than a hint of death." Raising the Dead is Selzer's vivid account of that journey - a trip to the underworld of disease, a world whose horrors are eased only by dementia, a place where death is as close as a lover. While his wife, children, doctors, and a gritty, wisecracking Irish nurse hover over him, Selzer suffers through the pain and indignity of medical procedures and the agonizing hallucinations that follow coma. Yet he "invites the IV pole, the respirator, the whole massive bank of machinery to suggest the background for a story." This story, the mysterious drama of the struggle between life and death, he relates with great power, elegance, and, surprisingly, wit. Few have been players in this drama and lived to tell about it. Fewer still, if any, can write about it with the intelligence and profundity of Richard Selzer.

Diagnosed w/Legionnaire's disease, author lapsed into coma & began struggle between life & death.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1991 surgeon Selzer ( Mortal Lessons ), stricken with Legionnaires' disease, was in a coma for 23 days and nearly died. Here he recalls ``the extravaganza of death'' in a way that is at once odd, funny and moving, written in an abstract, detached third-person narrative that is purposefully disquieting. His description of his near-death experience is riveting as he looks outside his own body at what is happening, a flat EKG for 412 minutes with no signs of life: ``It is strange, this painless death.'' Through his dead eyes we see a nurse writing the details of Selzer's demise on the chart, then he starts to breathe again. His eyes fling open. ``After ten minutes of certified death, this man has . . . risen. Risen!,'' reminiscent of Lazarus and Christ. The reader sees life through Selzer's ``myopic haze'' as he is haunted--and haunts us--with his travels to a ``Lotus land'' of monasteries, the Nile, the Abbey of St. Ronan and meetings with Father Damien of leper fame. Compared to his ``death,'' his full recovery at home is uneventful as Selzer reminds us that ``death is easy; it is the return of life that requires courage.'' (Feb.)
Library Journal
Selzer was a surgeon at the Yale School of Medicine before he turned full time to writing. His books have been well received, in particular his essay on the art of surgery, Mortal Lessons ( LJ 12/1/76), and his memoir, Down from Troy ( LJ 6/15/92). However, this new book will not help his reputation. Selzer here describes his bout with Legionnaires' disease: 23 days in a coma, being declared dead, and subsequent recovery. He does not describe his feelings in any detail except to recite his dreams. He even ``cites'' his medical chart to describe what happened but at the end says that he made up his chart. After completing this book, the only impression this reviewer was left with was, ``Why did I read this?'' There is nothing to help patients in similar circumstances; nor are there any of the insights into health and medicine that Selzer is known for. Not recommended.-- Eric D. Albright, Galter Health Sciences Lib., Northwestern Univ., Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780737297096
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 7/12/1995
  • Pages: 118

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