Cover image for The exact location of the soul : new and selected essays
The exact location of the soul : new and selected essays
Selzer, Richard, 1928-2016.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 336 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.E585 E93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Richard Selzer selects from his own classic essays, culled from three decades of writing. Published along with his favorites are five new essays, including "Phantom Vision" and "Braindeath," and an introduction detailing the making of this virtuoso doctor/writer. Compassionate, moving and perversely funny, Richard Selzer's essays intimately connect us with profound questions of life and death.

Author Notes

Allen Richard Selzer was born in Troy, New York on June 24, 1928. He graduated from Union College in 1948 and Albany Medical College in 1953. After an internship at Yale, he was drafted into the Army and served as a lieutenant in Korea from 1955 to 1957. He finished his surgical residency at Yale in 1957 and practiced until 1985, when he left his surgical career to write full time.

He wrote horror stories that were published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His short stories included A Question of Mercy, Imelda, and Whither Thou Goest. His books included The Doctor Stories, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, Confessions of a Knife, Rituals of Surgery, and Letters to a Young Doctor. He died on June 15, 2016 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Selzer's eighth essay collection contains 25 medical, literary, and autobiographical pieces, seven of them first publications. The seven include a moving report on visiting Haiti and the effects of AIDS in that poverty-stricken country, two essays on death, and a piece about a mother and her adult son conversing and each claiming that the one speaking loves the other more than the reverse. The other new essays are on writing and on growing up in Troy, New York. The longest recalls rooting for the Trojans while reading the Iliad, a recent near-disastrous return home, and the importance of a vacant lot in a child's life. Of the pieces on writing, one shows how well Selzer intertwines surgery and writing, while the three-page "Writer's Block" stresses the value of Selzer's corduroy writing pants and other antiblock devices. Those seven will be worth the price of admission for Selzer's longtime fans, whose numbers will swell as newcomers become intrigued and delighted by his wit, perception, and skillful use of language throughout the book. --William Beatty

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Making of a Doctor/Writer
The Exact Location of the Soul Down from Troy
Part I Down from Troy
Part II The Surgeon as Priest Lessons from the Art
Fairy Tale Phantom
Vision Brain Death: A Hesitation A Mask on the Face of Death
A Question of Mercy Liver
Bone Skin
The Knife
The Corpse Bald!
Writer's Block Of Nazareth and New Haven
Letter to a Young Surgeon I
Letter to a Young Surgeon II
Letter to a Young Surgeon IV
How to Build a Slaughterhouse
Diary of an Infidel: Notes from a Monastery
Rounds An Absence of Windows