Down from Troy

A Doctor Comes of Age

By Richard Selzer
Afterword by Peter Josyph

Subjects: Autobiography, Biography And Memoir, New York/regional, Memoir
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438434445, 315 pages, August 2010

Table of contents

Down from Troy
Photographs of Troy
by Peter Josyph
Afterword: The Frayed Rope Bridge of Memory
by Peter Josyph

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 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.

"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, N. Y., through his medical training and surgical career to his retirement. " — Publishers Weekly

"A poignant, elegaic memoir of his childhood in Troy, New York. . . . Selzer's finest work. " — Library Journal

"Superbly skilled writer/surgeon Selzer cracks open his psyche's sternum, showing us his heart repairs, then goes about sewing up the wounds while they are still dotted with blood. . . . A marvel. " — Kirkus

"This is another Selzer masterpiece. " — Annie Dillard

"He recounts the lives of the poor and the 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