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The Exact Location of the Soul: New and Selected Essays Hardcover – March 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312261462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312261467
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Over three decades, Richard Selzer has brought his skills as a surgeon to the page, wrestling powerful descriptions of pain and deliverance into words. This collection gathers representative writings from the whole of his career, including set pieces like the four-part "Letter to a Young Surgeon" and frequently anthologized essays on such delicate matters as delivering the news of a death to loved ones (and what happens to the corpse afterward).

Death is a constant theme in these essays, for "only in literature do the dead have a voice." Selzer has a marked talent for removing some of the mystery and fear from what is, after all, an inevitable process. He is also superb at describing such routine events of the surgical theater as the scrubbing of hands, the proper and improper functioning of blood and organs, and the instantaneous decisions that a doctor must make during a normal day. Selzer's style is often ornate--"What heartbroken psoriatic, surveying his embattled skin," he writes, "would not volunteer for an unanesthetized flaying could it but rid him of his pink sequins, his silver spangles?"--and not to every taste, but his gentle reflections on human frailty afford a revealing view of the practice of medicine, which Selzer clearly loves. "Say what you will about writing," he notes, "there is no more thrilling an achievement than the successful completion of a difficult surgical dissection." --Gregory McNamee

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

2.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is simply great. I have really enjoyed reading it--Selzer has a style unto himself, and he is a great writer. I have been reading an essay a night for a few weeks now and it is superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Phil Adams on November 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was perusing through the library of my son-in-law who is a vascular surgeon and the “The Exact Location of the Soul” was one book that caught my interest. I just finished reading it and I enjoyed it immensely. I am buying my own copy as a permanent addition to my library. It is a keeper! 26 poetic essays, stories, and musings of Dr. Selzer's observations as a surgeon, Yale professor, and writer. You will experience times of laughter and maybe even a few tears. The fact that some medical school administrators have made Richard Selzer's book required reading says a great deal.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Russell Boone on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was somewhat please by this item but it was not exactly what I was looking for. The author uses past experiences written in a very poetic way inorder article the wisdom he has gained over the years of his practice. I was looking for something that was a little more literal.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dale B Mortimer on April 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mildewed book caused acute flare of my asthma; and the mildew may contaminate my other books. International Books refuses to address the problem. Book tossed. Will never use International Books again.
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16 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Preface: I am a medical student and apparently not the target audience of this book.
I simply could not force myself to continue reading this book as the experience was not unlike stabbing myself over and over again with a pair of scissors. I am by nature a pragmatist and I prefer concrete things, but here's my take. This guy may have sold millions of books. He did the standard invocation of ancient greeks, the druids, God, etc, lots of fluffy words, to make himself feel erudite. But there's no there there. I would rather read a bad romance, which is what this book strives to be.
It is very easy to explain his writing style and why I hate it so much. One example: "Touch the great artery. Feel it bound like a deer." Another: "Press your ear against the body, .... as a child holding a seashell". My second favorite: "In the canals, cilia paddle silently, like an Iroquois canoe".
The all time best, about a regular Joe patient who "miraculously" healed: "Could such a man have felt the brush of wings?"
Get it? It's a harlequin for Yalies. I have newfound disrespect for both editorial writers and book award judges.
This book is not techinical, it is not emotional, it is poetic. You can't actually relate to any characters, there are none that I saw. If you like his writing, your favorite actors are William Shatner and Charlton Heston.
This is my first review. If you like this book, great. I just wanted to warn folks of what they're getting, not make a judgment about others reading preferences. Had I received this warning, I wouldn't have wasted my time.
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