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March 7, 1977

Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery

JAMA. 1977;237(10):1009. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270370081035

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The book forum in The Journal has space to review only about 20% of the books we receive. I had originally placed Dr Selzer's book in the 80% category. However, after seeing numerous reviews in the lay press, most of them highly commendatory, I felt impelled to place on record a point of view diametrically opposite.

Dr Selzer, who has published abundantly in the lay press, has here produced a collection of essays directed to the laymen, but all dealing in one way or another with medicine. In subject matter he ranged from anatomical, physiological, and surgical topics, presented for lay reading, frequently with "philosophic" overtones, to anecdotal reminiscences of his childhood.

One review compared Selzer to Sir Thomas Browne, a comparison that makes me writhe. Browne is a magnificent stylist, although in a manner now outmoded. Selzer, as a stylist, conveys the impression that he has not too much