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Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel: Are You In The Mood For a Misery Memoir?

Updated on August 18, 2012

At this joyful and festive time of the year, those of us of a more Scrooge-like bent may be desperately seeking some form of entertainment or pop culture that doesn’t involve forced jollity and goodwill to all humankind.   (Or is it just me?)  There’s always the entirety of Swedish cinema to rely on, or perhaps the Billy Bob Thornton vehicle ‘Bad Santa’.  Or maybe you’re looking for a good read?  Something with no festive theme whatsoever?  If so, then maybe Elizabeth Wurtzel’s ‘Prozac Nation’ memoir will do the trick for you.

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Pretty much the most famous, if perhaps not the best, memoir of the 90s, Wurtzel’s account of her miserable childhood, strenuously impressive education (Harvard), difficult relationship with her mother and lifelong depression seemed to strike a chord with the book-buying public in the age of grunge and ‘authenticity’.  (Yes, that’s ‘authenticity’, not authenticity.)  It didn’t hurt that it struck at the height of the fame, or notoriety perhaps, of the SSRI ‘wonderdrugs’ for depression, including Prozac.  Reading the memoir, Wurtzel found some measure of relief from her psychological problems through the assistance of medication. 

However she has also recounted in later works of autobiography and essays, details of her subsequent drug addiction and peripatetic adventures, suggesting that perhaps Prozac might not always be the magical heal-all it’s cracked up

That said, what’s to be said in favour of Prozac Nation as a good, depressing read and antidote to the smug and annoying nature of Christmassy triumphalism?  (You know, for those of us who aren’t inclined that way.)  If you find celebrities, including literary celebrities, a tad annoying, then schadenfreude might possibly form a part of your enjoyment.  Prozac Nation was sold heavily on the basis of Wurtzel’s pretty-girl overachievement and supposed literary genius.  Well, there are those (rather sexist) commentators who have noted that time has not been kind.  (Do they ever look in a mirror?)  More importantly, Wurtzel allegedly had some trouble getting through the Bar exam in order to practise as a lawyer, and much of her subsequent books seem to be at least half constituted of wails about how hard it is to keep a good man, pay your taxes and get your medication straight.

Diddums!  It’s true, life is tough out here in the real world.  We should all visit less often.


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