The Exact Location of the Soul is a collection of 26 essays along with an introduction titled "The Making of a Doctor/Writer." Most of these essays are reprinted from Selzer's earlier books (especially Mortal Lessons and Letters to a Young Doctor). Six pieces are new and include a commentary on the problem of AIDS in Haiti ("A Mask on the Face of Death"), musings on organ donation ("Brain Death: A Hesitation"), a conversation between a mother and son ("Of Nazareth and New Haven"), and the suicide of a college student ("Phantom Vision").


This collection contains many of Richard Selzer's classic essays such as The Surgeon as Priest, The Exact Location of the Soul, and Lessons from the Art (see annotations). Many of the new compositions included in this collection pale in comparison to these older essays. The book continues Selzer's quest for truth and especially love. He has long ago discovered that love is the antidote for mankind's predicament. He realizes that he can only find happiness in love: love of language and stories, love of surgery and healing, love of people and life.

The book resonates with many of the author's familiar themes. Imagination sets us free. Human frailty and resiliency are inspiring and ferocious. Selzer reaffirms his belief that illness ennobles: "Disease magnifies both the sufferer and those who tend him"[p 320]. Intuition and spirituality are essential to physicians: "There is a place where knowledge and technique stop and the spirit moves where it wants"[p 290]. Doctors would be wise to find it.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



Page Count


Secondary Source

Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery