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Elizabeth Wurtzel's Literary Output: Fame, Notoriety, Depression and Drugs!

Updated on October 2, 2012

Depression and Medication: Wurtzel & Prozac Nation

Who is Elizabeth Wurtzel, why does her name sound so familiar and what are her literary works all about? These are questions you may be asking yourself if her name has come up in conversation recently, or you have spotted her name on a book cover while browsing on Amazon or in Borders.

Certainly in the 90s, Wurtzel achieved a kind of notoriety and faint air of scandal that is rarely associated with purely literary figures, but rather more often with film starlets or models or singers. This may have been helped by a reasonably pretty face and appearing in a half-dressed state on her book covers. But her first book, Prozac Nation, made the kind of publishing splash that can’t be accounted for by a photogenic writer and a few attention-grabbing quotes.

Prozac Nation is a memoir of childhood and adolescent depression. I don’t mean the kind of mild malaise that most teenagers indulge in at some point. Her first book documents the kind of hardcore depression that results in hospital stays and long-term medication. If this was all it had going for it then it would probably never have had the kind of popular success it did have. But it is written in the kind of frank, confessional mode that rivets the attention, in spite of the author coming across as one of the most annoying human beings you could ever possibly meet. You’ll keep on reading just out of irritation, to find out what asinine thing she does next!

Feminism, Self-Help and Careers: Wurtzel & The Bitch Rules

Ms. Wurtzel’s next book, Bitch, had been a long time in the planning. (Years, according to brief allusions in other works of hers.) It began as a study of biblical and classical ‘villainesses’ from a feminist viewpoint. In its fruition it expanded to include scandalous and notorious women through the ages up until the present day, such as Amy Fisher and Nicole Simpson. The reader’s comprehension of Wurtzel’s stand on feminism expanded in range and complexity through this book.

The next tome to come from Wurtzel’s computer files was a quickie aimed more at the mass market than her previous works. Sometimes called ‘The Bitch Rules’, but also marketed under other names, this was a self-help tome for addled literary late-twenties New York Jewish babes. Okay, bit of a niche market there. You could possibly expand the potential audience – slightly. Formatted as a series of rules for living the twenty-first century Western female’s life, it’s a touch hit or miss. Some rules, e.g. 'Have A Job, Have Your Own Money, Support Yourself', will have some of us punching the air in agreement. (Probably those of us with girlfriends who coo about how shared finances and joint bank accounts and trust are so important, and how hubby really likes being the breadwinner, and they’ll be together forever while she finds her direction over the next decade or so. Girlfriend, I could tell you a few things about hubby…)

Elizabeth Wurtzel, Drugs, Ritalin and Career Breakdown: More, Now, Again

Other chapter titles range from mildly annoying to homicide-inducing, e.g. 'If It’s True Love, None Of The Rules Matter'. I got some use and value and food for thought out of this book. I think, on balance, it was just about worth the irritation along the way.

Finally I come to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s most recent literary production, the memoir of drug addiction More, Now, Again. The title is pretty self-explanatory. There is a little touch of irony and amusement in reading this book, if a cruel one. Ms. Wurtzel is on record in her previous books, boasting ever so proudly about how she couldn’t really understand drug addiction as she just didn’t have the capacity for it in her. (This was at the same time as casually admitting to the odd little toot or brush with magic mushrooms.) Well, I guess we’re all only ever one little snort or injection away from addiction, and you never know which one it is that’ll finally reel you in. Or not until it’s too late, anyway.

This book covers Wurtzel’s (drug-fuelled) attempts to finish Bitch, and then the come-down as she tries to get off the drugs. (The twist is that the drug that really initially gets her hooked is Ritalin, the kid's prescription drug for ADHD.) She winds up in a treatment centre where she gets all clean again and hooks up with a fascinating new man. This is promptly followed by a return to her New York City life and a return to her bad old habits, in every sense. Eventually she does get permanently clean, but it’s by no means as easy as you would expect for someone who simply wasn’t the type to get addicted to drugs! (Does such a type exist, given enough poppy?) All this is part of a long, upsy-daisy drug-fuelled journey punctuated with sex, married boyfriends, porn and becoming a chubster. Enjoy the vicarious suffering, readers!

Wurtzel is a terrific and entertaining writer in a lot of ways: the best way is that we can read all about her life, thanking God that it isn’t our own.


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