Down from Troy Essay - Critical Essays

Richard Selzer

Down from Troy

In DOWN FROM TROY, Selzer details the diverging visions and aspirations of his flamboyant mother and pragmatic father. Daily exposed to the sufferings and frustrations of Troy’s prostitutes, prisoners, and bar fighters, Selzer’s general practitioner father developed a strong faith in practicality, concreteness, and exactness. Accompanying this pragmatism was a love of craft. These traits combined to make him an excellent doctor and an influential role model.

Selzer’s mother shared little with her husband beyond love for their two sons. A dramatic, almost operatic, presence around the house and the city, she dressed in scarves, stoles, and floppy hats and continually broke out into song. Immersed in music and literature by his mother, Selzer began to sense that his mother and father were warring for his soul. Hers was a lost cause, however, for the physician’s world of instruments, reference books, surgery, disease, and deathbed watches was too alluring. At the age of twelve, after his father’s death, Selzer resolved to follow his father into the practice of medicine.

Although DOWN FROM TROY also details the effect of the Great Depression on Troy and its inhabitants, the focus always remains on Selzer’s parents. What their son seems to have gained by writing this autobiography is a new understanding of these two disparate yet compelling forces in his life. Certainly this book and Selzer’s eventually choosing both to practice medicine and to write are fitting tributes to his interesting and irrepressible parents.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVIII, May 15, 1992, p. 1652.

Chicago Tribune. July 19, 1992, XIV, p. 5.

JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association. CCLXVIII, October 21, 1992, p. 2107.

Kirkus Reviews. LX, May 15, 1992, p. 660.

Library Journal. CXVII, June 15, 1992, p. 84.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. July 19, 1992, p. 6.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, July 26, 1992, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LXVIII, August 17, 1992, p. 87.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, May 18, 1992, p. 52.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, September 6, 1992, p. 2.