In his collection of essays, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man, Peter Selgin unabashedly delves into some of the most intimate and often humiliating moments of his left-handed life. Selgin’s essays describe the difficulty of being a first-generation Italian-American twin in a small hat factory town in Connecticut. Much of his narrative describes his trials and views on being a left-handed, struggling artist and writer. Often these frustrations involve lack of money or physical limitations or both.
When discussing life’s challenges, he writes boldly about his disappointments and achievements, not ashamed to admit his defeats. He describes his emotional reactions, admitting to tears and listlessness over his divorce. Wrought with a humorous backbone, Selgin’s story-telling is tasteful even in its blunt descriptions of people, bodily functions (or lack thereof), and even sometimes sexual situations.
When describing his inability to urinate from his enlarged prostate, he forewarns his audience that they might skip the chapter if they don’t care to know about his intimate body parts. He explains that the reader should read it because his bodily matters are as important as his soul, as they are connected entities. This warning, however, prefaced in a chapter called “The Man from Stanboul” only intrigues you all the more because he does it so candidly and using humorous language to lighten the serious subject matter. He starts the chapter about his urinary trials with an old limerick: “There once was a man from Stanboul / who soliloquized thus to his tool: First you robbed me of wealth / then you took all my health and now you won’t pee, you old fool!”
While Selgin often mentions conflicts with his twin brother, he does not investigate them further. Their relationship, whether in the present or the past, remains hidden, suggesting that perhaps he did not have enough distance from them to truly explore the effect this strife has had on his life and his choices.
Each carefully selected and eloquently written vignette offers unbridled honesty and vivid self-examination. Selgin’s narrative voice comes through almost like a friend who is calling you after a bad day, or an older uncle telling you about his past while you sip wine on the family porch.