Richard Selzer

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Richard Selzer is a surgeon and author. He was born (1928) and raised in Troy, New York, United States. His father was Julius Selzer, M.D. a general practitioner who practiced from the ground floor of the family home at Fifth Avenue in Troy. His mother, Gertrude Selzer, was an amateur singer who performed in local productions of musicals and opera. Richard Selzer graduated from Union College in 1948, with a B.S. and received his M.D. from Albany Medical College in 1953. He served in the Army for two years as a lieutenant in charge of a medical detachment. In 1960, following a surgical internship and residency at Yale University, he joined the faculty of Yale as a professor of surgery, where he remained until his retirement in 1985. Beginning in the 1970s, Dr. Selzer became well known as an author as well.

Richard Selzer books are generally collections of short stories, essays, and memoirs, including selections from his massive diary. But Imagine A Woman consists entirely of fiction, and he has written two full-length memoirs, Raising the Dead, and Down from Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age. With author and friend Peter Josyph, Selzer published a kind of spoken autobiography, What One Man Said to Another: Talks with Richard Selzer, which has also been recorded as a Blackstone audiobook with Peter Josyph reading the part of Richard Selzer and actor Raymond Todd reading the part of Peter Josyph. Josyph also edited and illustrated a collection of Selzer's correspondence with him, called Letters to A Best Friend. Selzer's most recent books are Diary, which consists entirely of entries from the journal he has kept religiously for decades, and the novel Knife Song Korea, which is closely based on his experience as a very young surgeon in the U.S. Army in a remote Korean village after the close of the Korean War. The novel won three prizes for literary fiction.

Published works[edit]

Among his published books are:

  • Rituals of Surgery (1973)
  • Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery (1976)
  • Confessions of a Knife (1979)
  • Letters to a Young Doctor (1982)
  • Taking the World in for Repairs (1986)
  • Imagine a Woman (1990)
  • Down from Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age (1992; autobiography)
  • Raising the Dead: A Doctor’s Encounter with His Own Mortality (1993)
  • What One Man Said to Another: Talks with Richard Selzer (1994; with Peter Josyph))
  • The Doctor Stories (1998)
  • The Exact Location of the Soul: New and Selected Essays (2001)
  • The Whistler's Room: Stories and Essays (2004)
  • Knife Song Korea: A novel (2009)
  • Letters to a Best Friend (2009; with Peter Josyph)
  • Diary (2010)

Dr. Richard Selzer included his short story "Poe's Light-house," inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Light-House", in The Doctor Stories, published by Picador.

Film adaptation[edit]

Irreverent Media Ltd. has optioned and developed Selzer's short story as the feature film The Light-house. The short story is currently in the process of being adapted for the screen by late 2008. It is rumored that Ellen Page of Hard Candy and Juno fame will star as Annie and Kevin Zegers has been attached for the leading role. The adaption was in the pre-production phase with filming scheduled for January 2009. During this time the film was retitled Light-house. As of January 2010, production has been stagnant.[1]

Literary Award: The Selzer Prize for Writing[edit]

In 2010, The Abaton, a medical humanities literary and arts journal produced by Des Moines University, awarded the inaugural Selzer Prize for Writing. The award was created to honor Dr. Selzer for his contribution to the medical humanities and medical profession as a whole. The award will be given annually to a medical student whose essay or story stands out for its quality and humanistic focus. The award winner by year:

  • 2010 – Impostor or Not by Rachel Hammer, MS-II, Mayo College of Medicine
  • 2011 - Compliance by Nitin Ahuja, M.D., University of Michigan (Currently PGY3 at the University of Virginia)
  • 2013 - When I Came In by Trilochan Hiremath, MS-IV, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • 2014 - Where Will You Find Happiness Now? by Christy Duan, MS-III, Albert Einstein College of Medicine


External links[edit]