A beautifully crafted memoir by one of America’s finest storytellers.
In this beloved classic, Richard Selzer recounts his childhood in Troy, New York, during the Great Depression. No easy town to come of age in, Troy in the 1930s was a city long past its prime, “full of whores and TB,” and as the son of a general practitioner, Selzer had occasion to view both up close. In the midst of this grim environment—“bereft, pigeon-colored, in despair”—Selzer is buoyed by his father’s devotion to the craft of medicine and his mother’s love of music and art. Both father and mother endeavor to shape their son to their own ends, and although he initially chooses a career in medicine, he ultimately excels as both a surgeon and a writer. Thus are the dreams of both parents fulfilled. Down from Troy is a beautifully crafted memoir by one of America’s finest storytellers.
“Superb as an essayist, Richard Selzer recaptures the memories and images of his youth, his impressions of the illnesses and afflictions that assaulted his unprepared mind … This memoir serves as an historical record of the caring physician-patient relationship that once existed, when physicians were often as poor as their patients.” — Sacramento Book Review
“With a physician’s eye and an artist’s vision, surgeon-turned-writer Selzer traces the arc of his life from his 1930s childhood in Troy, New York, through his medical training and surgical career to his retirement.” — Publishers Weekly
“A poignant, elegiac memoir of his childhood … Selzer’s finest work.” — Library Journal
“He recounts the lives of the poor and working-class patients who made up the bulk of his father’s practice with a sense of the dignity of the human spirit under the most trying conditions.” — The Toronto Star
“Richard Selzer is a writer who cares more about truth than consequences. Ignoring the treasured Anglo-Saxon myth of the golden childhood and shunning the America of sugary Norman Rockwell towheads, he tells a grimmer, truer story, a tale teeming with dreadful images from the America of Poe and Hawthorne. Gesturing corpses and dying prostitutes, sudden deaths and acts of incestuous violence, lives dominated by horror and misunderstanding populate his powerful, moving memoir.” — Susan Cheever, New York Times Book Review
Richard Selzer is a former surgeon and professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He is also the author of many books of essays and fiction, including Knife Song Korea and Letters to a Best Friend edited by Peter Josyph, both also published by SUNY Press; Rituals of Surgery; Confessions of a Knife;and The Exact Location of the Soul. He has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the American Medical Writers Award. He lives in New Haven.
Table of Contents
Down from Troy
Photographs of Troy by Peter Josyph
Afterword: The Frayed Rope Bridge of Memory by Peter Josyph