IMAGINE A WOMAN by Richard Selzer
Kirkus Star

IMAGINE A WOMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Other than the odd magazine short story, master medical essayist Seizer (Taking the Worm in for Repairs, 1986, etc.) has published no fiction since his debut story collection, Rituals of Surgery, 16 years ago. Now comes a new, resonant collection of original Seizer shorts--six tales narrated with a clinician's eye and a healer's heart. As befits the imaginings of a surgeon, all six tales deal with pathology, psychological or physical, and its cure. The widowed heroine of the moving lead-off tale, ""Whither Thou Goest,"" for example, obsesses about hearing just once more the beating of her dead husband's heart, now implanted in another man's body. At last granted her wish, she worships at the implantee's chest, then returns home, as ""a residue of splendor sang in her ears."" In a second tale about healing from insupportable grief, a widower becomes obsessed with an eerie bog, nearly loses his life to it, then escapes from its sucking hold, reborn; while in the more forced ""Pipistral,"" a mother witnesses the passage from tragedy to glory of her autistic son, transformed into a batlike creature who lines the walls of his cave with great art. Also dealing with transformation from illness to wholeness--although through the unlikely agency of death--are ""Luis,"" in which a garbage scavenger is fatally wounded, then transfigured, by his love for the stars glittering above his mean world; and the exquisite title story, in which a woman dying of AIDS finds rapture as the disease renders her acutely receptive to her surroundings. Finally, there's the anomalous ""Poe's Light House,"" a Poe pastiche whose clumsy supernatural-ex-machina, more Lovecraft than Poe, nearly overwhelms its clever (and unnamed) use of Tourette's syndrome as the root of its protagonist's agonies. Disquieting, uplifting, and couched in impeccably precise language: Selzer's memorable stories, even when thematically strained, ring with humanity, its corruption and its sanctity.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Random House