THE DOCTOR STORIES by Richard Selzer


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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. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18687-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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