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April 22, 1974

Rituals of Surgery

Author Affiliations

University of Iowa Iowa City

JAMA. 1974;228(4):507-508. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230290055043

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This is a volume of short stories written by a surgeon, inevitably inviting comparison with other physician-writers such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sir Thomas Browne, or Rabelais. Selzer's style most closely resembles the bluntness and brutality of the latter, and he seems to share his ironic view of the human situation.

As the title indicates, the stories are joined by a common thread of subject matter. Nearly all center on a situation related to medicine—an old fable about a 16th-century rhinoplasty, the sexual and surgical exploits and exploitations of a young surgeon stationed in Korea, the seduction of an orderly by a nurse, in a morgue, a physician accidentally noting a possible breast malignancy in a prostitute with whom he spends the night, a man precipitated into psychotic violence after a treasured birthmark is removed at his fiancee's request, and another man precipitated into psychotic regression through the process of