Taking the World in for Repairs (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Taking the World In for Repairs, Richard Selzer’s fifth book, is a collection of a dozen essays and short stories. Rituals of Surgery, eighteen short stories, was published in 1974. Selzer won a National Magazine Award for his essays in 1975 and received his first serious literary attention with his second book, Mortal Lessons (1976), a collection of sometimes grisly observations on the art of surgery. Confessions of a Knife followed in 1979. The book continued his exploration of the dark side of surgery but also offered several humorous pieces, including, as an appendix, an essay on the appendix. Letters to a Young Doctor appeared in 1982, offering essays and fiction loosely organized around the title theme. Selzer takes up fainting in the operating room, the worrisomeness of feet, surgery as combat, and the meaning of urinals.
The present volume is Selzer’s most eclectic. The first piece, a memoir of his stay at the abbey of San Giorgio in Venice in 1983, is fully one-third of the book. This “Diary of an Infidel: Notes from a Monastery” sets forth some of the ideas that weave their way through the rest of the book. Two stories follow—“Fetishes” (a woman’s greatest fear of surgery is that her husband may find out that she has false teeth) and “’The Black Swan’ Revisited” (a retelling of Thomas Mann’s novella)—and two meditations on architecture—“How to Build a Slaughterhouse”...
(The entire section is 2273 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Best Sellers. XLVI, December, 1986, p. 355.
Booklist. LXXXIII, September 1, 1986, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews. LIV, August 1, 1986, p. 1191.
Library Journal. CXI, December, 1986, p. 126.
The New York Times Book Review. XCI, October 5, 1986, p. 42.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXX, July 25, 1986, p. 176.
Washington Post Book World. XVI, September 21, 1986, p. 11.
(The entire section is 40 words.)