Anderson provides the context from which Selzer’s writing grows and a concept of language adequate to his purposes and accomplishments. He takes a careful look at Selzer’s writing to demonstrate that these abstract considerations do tell us why a surgeon would write. The works Anderson examines are "Jonah and the Whale" (an important early short story) and the first three essays in Mortal Lessons. These examples show the reader exactly how the symbols of literature interact directly with the world and the everyday communications of both writer and reader. According to Anderson, Mortal Lessons is also Selzer’s most artistic statement of his own sense of why and how he became a writer.
Selzer’s books include Rituals of Surgery, Mortal Lessons, Confessions of a Knife, Letters to a Young Doctor, and Taking the World in for Repairs.