January 7, 2020

Elizabeth Wurtzel has died. The author of "Prozac Nation" was 52.

The iconic book was published when she was 27.

From the WaPo obituary:
“Elizabeth’s message was: Never sweep anything under the carpet,” [said Yale writing instructor Anne Fadiman]. “Good, bad, whatever — it’s you. Embrace it. Own it. No excuses. No apologies.”...

[Her] misadventures apparently ended for good in 1998, when Ms. Wurtzel said she stopped using drugs, aside from the antidepressants that she credited with keeping her alive. Within a decade, she also launched a new career, graduating from Yale Law School and joining the white-shoe firm of Boies, Schiller and Flexner in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which she said left her feeling “powerless” and unable to write.
From the NYT obituary:
The writer David Samuels, a friend since childhood, said the cause was metastatic breast cancer, a disease that resulted from the BRCA genetic mutation. Ms. Wurtzel had a double mastectomy in 2015. After her diagnosis, she became an advocate for BRCA testing — something she had not had — and wrote about her cancer experience in The New York Times.

“I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer,” she wrote. “I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so.”...

“We resented her for being such a famous and hot little mess,” [wrote Meghan Daum in The New Yorker in 2013], “yet we couldn’t help but begrudgingly admire her ability to parlay her neuroses into financial rewards and a place in the literary scene.”...

For a time she worked for the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, though she left in 2012, saying she wanted to devote more time to writing. “I choose pleasure over what is practical,” she wrote in 2013. “I may be the only person who ever went to law school on a lark.”...

24 comments:

Leon said...

I missread that as Elizabeth Warren.

Lucid-Ideas said...

"In February 2015, Wurtzel announced she had breast cancer, "which like many things that happen to women is mostly a pain in the ass. But compared with being 26 and crazy and waiting for some guy to call, it's not so bad. If I can handle 39 breakups in 21 days, I can get through cancer."

"...Like most things that happen to women..." "...being crazy..." "...waiting for some guy to call..." "...handle 39 breakups in 21 days..."

Google image search - 'Elizabeth Wurtzel - Bitch' - and look at the cover.

Not 'many things that happen to women' Lizzie. Just you. Just you.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Lay off, Lucid. Even if valid, she just died.

Bay Area Guy said...

She was really, really smart, but really, really misguided.

This article she wrote in 2013, actually frightened me -- how could a relatively young, successful person, get so lost?

Big distinction between smarts and wisdom.

RIP

bleh said...

" ... graduating from Yale Law School and joining the white-shoe firm of Boies, Schiller and Flexner in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ..."

Something is off about the timeline. I read that she graduated from Yale in 2008. That's not remotely "in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

traditionalguy said...

The NYT also ran the Obit for my old friend Sammy Wyche, but for no other reason than he once threw a female reporter out of the Bengals locker room. Let add that that, Sammy was the most undepressed, competitive and brilliant man that I ever knew.

Unknown said...

Didn't she date David Foster Wallace? I always thought she was the model for the PGOAT in Infinite Jest.

mockturtle said...

If the NYT thinks she's important, she must be important. /s

Lucid-Ideas said...

@JohnAnnArbor

"She just died." Sounds to me like that's been happening to her for 30 years and her body just got the message.

I don't dance the pied-piper's tune and glorify the insane or cherish the work of those whose labor would've - in saner times - landed them in the nuthouse. "Prozac Nation" is a horrible work that has done god-knows how much damage to the young women that read it, emulated it, or used it to justify any number of horrid shibboleths that have in the last 20 years grown from shibboleth to a new and full-born Jungian archetype of horrible proportions.

Do you read the same things I do? Maybe you've heard that SSRI usage for young women under 30 is off-the-freaking-charts. Or that young people, young women especially, have never been more unhappy.

Well, it didn't start with her, but she sure helped along the trope of a young women sat-astride a chair naked saying 'fuck the whole world over'. Far be it that said lifestyle made her look like she got hit full-frontal by a bus...this is what female-empowerment looks like.

Lizzie was a liar, like most of the feminist icons of her time and like most of the current whatever-wave icons are now. Sowing the seeds of their pathologies because misery loves company. You're wrong if you don't think they don't do tremendous damage.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, RIP.

Shouting Thomas said...

I met many many lawyers in corp law who decided to go to law school because they couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Jeff Brokaw said...

No excuses, no apologies is very good advice, it seems to me.

I’ve more or less lived my life that way, looking back (mostly) — but having it distilled to 4 powerful words for me to hold onto when thing got tough would have been useful

J. Farmer said...

I never read the Wurtzel book, but I did see the film adaptation starring Christina Ricci. It was one of the more thoroughly unpleasant films I recall sitting through, and I recall Ricci being one of the more unpleasant protagonists I'd ever seen on screen. A narcissistic, whiny, self-absorbed brat. It recast depression as some kind of hip aloofness.

jimbino said...

I too went to law school on a lark, at 35, when tuition was free at UT Austin and they gave me a scholarship. I was fed up with working to pay taxes for other people to study law for "free."

anti-de Sitter space said...

I’ve read three of her books.

Hope her family does as well as possible re the loss.

IMHO.

William said...

I heard of her, but had never read anything by her until just now. Thanks for posting Bay Area Guy. She seems to have been blessed with many gifts but even more deficits and a knack for describing the tension they created. She only made it half way through middle age. I don't think she would have enjoyed old age, but who knows. Maybe her demons would have died before her. Well, she had a life and left a record of it. She's no mute Milton.

daskol said...

read quite a few of her shorter works, and always impressed with her powers of observation and recitation. sad end, but triumphant, including her reaction, compared to being beaten by the psychological issues in which she wallowed and which ultimately walloped.

Bill Peschel said...

Did the Times mention her 9/11 comments to the Toronto Globe and Mail five months after: "I just felt like everyone was overreacting. My main thought was: What a pain in the ass. ... I had not the slightest emotional reaction. I thought, 'This is a really strange art project.' It was the most amazing sight in terms of sheer elegance. It fell like water. It just slid, like a turtleneck going over someone's head."

Then she added: "You can't tell people this. I'm talking to you because you're Canadian."

daskol said...

as bright and maladapted as she chronicled herself, cancer is a depersonalized killer. even if she tried to take the blame.

daskol said...

so sick

daskol said...

she was difficult and frequently annoying, but almost always worth reading.

daskol said...

note that she has no real current media freinds or presence. could be the passage of time, but also her candid display of her inner life is not the kind of thinking one wants to reveal in the era of that's not funny/crimethink.

daskol said...

she was enough of a legend at her co-ed orthodox Jewish high school that even though I'm several years younger, her stuff was still a topic there years after she'd left with students I knew there. she was a legend in her own times.

pchuck1966 said...

The poor women was a dumpster fire. May God have mercy upon her soul.

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