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Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women Paperback – May 18, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Elizabeth Wurtzel, an ex-rock critic for The New Yorker, won controversial fame with her bestselling 1994 memoir Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, which described how Prozac saved the precocious Harvard grad from suicide. Her second book, Bitch is a celebration of the defiant, rock & roll spirit of self-destructive women through the ages: Delilah, Amy Fisher, Princess Di, and hundreds more (including the awesomely reckless Wurtzel). There is no comprehensible central line of argument, perhaps because the author did her exhaustive research and writing on a speedy Kerouacesque drug binge that, by her own admission, sent her to rehab upon the book's conclusion. But Wurtzel has the remains of a fine mind: her insights are often sharp, sometimes bitchy, and always shameless as she zooms in a very few pages from The Oresteia to O.J. to her first crush on a fictional character (Heathcliff) to Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, Richard Pryor, Chrissie Hynde, Leaving Las Vegas, Gone with the Wind, Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," Schindler's List, Oliver!, Carousel, and Andrea Dworkin. Most pop culture pundits incline to grandiose blather, but Wurtzel is punchy, and her quotes are more often apt than pretentious. Bitch is like a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in a library, with frequent rampages through the film and music archives. Like rock music, Wurtzel's prose style lives for the moment. She glories in breaking rules to bits, is never giddier than when she's saying something shocking, and apparently has no moral code except self-expression--with the attitude volume knob cranked up to 11. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

There is little praise for women in Wurtzel's hyperbolic rant about "bad girls" and their relationship to Western society. Indeed, hip turns of phrase frequently replace logic in this often smug and overwritten screed. In her defense, Wurtzel (Prozac Nation, LJ 8/94) has taken on a huge project, and every now and again she introduces a startling insight about how women manipulate situations to control their lives. Her look at the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah is particularly instructive in elucidating the history of our reaction to the alluringly repulsive femme fatale. Likewise, her presentation of both mythic and real women who flaunt their "pussy power" makes for provocative reading. Nonetheless, nearly a quarter of the book focuses on Nicole Brown Simpson (who few would call a "difficult woman") and is shockingly mean-spirited. While she lambastes the Simpson jury as "just plain stupid," we never learn how she knows what the jury did not: that O.J. killed Nicole. Since she was not in the courtroom, her cavalier dismissal of the verdict rankles and casts doubt on her other arguments. Worse, she seems to believe that violence is endemic to being "crazy in love," and her writing romanticizes the black eye and slapped cheek as proof of passionate involvement. In addition, Wurtzel completely ignores lesbians?an odd omission since the expression of Sapphic love represents a blatant rejection of "good girl" norms?and dismisses the happily single, writing that "it would be easier to eliminate racism or end poverty or cure illiteracy or dethrone Fidel Castro than it would to make girls stop wanting to be brides." Recommended only as catalyst for debate.
-?Eleanor J. Bader, New School for Social Research, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Later Printing edition (May 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385484011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385484015
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 221 people found the following review helpful By Tevis Fen-Kortiay on July 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Wurtzel treats other people like poo, and calls it empowerment. It's okay, though, because as she reminds the reader ad nauseum, she's extremely well-connected and attended Harvard. Anyway she's good-looking, and the most consistent message in this otherwise self-contradictory mess is that "Beauty = Virtue."

Read between the lines and Wurtzel's idea of feminism is a hot chick who dresses like a prostitute, mistreats others, throws tantrums like a child and otherwise embodies the darkest misogynist fantasies of men. Even Wurtzel acknowledges that this attracts men at their worst, leading to loveless, mutually destructive relationships - but it makes you cool, tragic and popular!! Be warned that her advice isn't for everyone, however: Nicole Simpson rates higher on Wurtzel's "Flattering Projection of Myself" scale than Gertrude Stein or Eleanor Roosevelt, for instance, because she was inherently superior. I mean, duh! Nicole was *way* hotter than Stein!! I think we all agree that the ability to inspire a man to camouflage his lap topology with a strategically-placed briefcase is the sole measure of a woman's worth, right? File me under Feminism!

Wurtzel borrowed her book's title from an essay by Ron Rosenbaum. The cover photo was her publisher's idea, and she just went along with it. She uses the word "youthquaker" an average of four times per chapter. But perhaps the best summary of this book comes from an excerpt from her interview on National Public Radio shortly after publication:

Random Caller: Hello. I just want to say that I find it deeply offensive that your publisher and this radio network are presenting you as the voice of feminism, apparently on the merits of your appearance and connections.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Diane Moore VINE VOICE on November 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I did not like:
*that the book did not follow any sort of train of thought. Even though it was broken up into five or six essays, she would go from one person to the next so quickly, you don't even know she was talking about a different person. I skipped most of the stuff on Delilah, the character showed up on occasion throughout 2-3 of the essays, and sometimes stayed for pages. I wasn't interested in it, and the author probably should have just written a whole essay on her. Apparently, this book was written on some kind of speed, which makes sense, but couldn't it have been cut down a little? Or, at least, molded into something readable? Maybe its supposed to fit with the running theme: "Bad girls: young, beautiful, and on drugs." Which leads me to the next thought...
*What is her obsession with beauty? It seems like every woman she mentions is somehow tragically beautiful.. and these are the women who are bi#$%#s, the "difficult" women... how she says: "I am still pretty. I still have time to work out my marital status." <---What is that about? As if the only people who are married are good looking? Since when is marriage about "looks" anyway? or she also says.."even worse, it seems inevitable that there will come a time when I won't look good, when men will stop flirting with me, when this freedom sh#$ will start to feel more like free-falling. Will I know? Will I become pathetic?" No, you will just have to win people over by personality for a change! I just don't understand the superficial attitude for someone who is supposed to be a feminist. I have known women who are not great beauties, but everywhere they go, men fall in love with them. Once again, love is not about outside beauty.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Alix Kates Shulman wrote it better years ago in "Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen." The beautiful women drink booze, swallow pills, and die young, usually by their own hand. Ms. Wurtzel claims to be interested in "bad" or "bitchy" women, but she's really interested in beauty. Nearly all of her bitches are beautiful, and in most of her examples, got famous, got reputations, got attention, got everything based on their looks. She dwells lovingly and endlessly on the beauty of Edie Sedgwick, a Warhol babe, who died of an overdose at age 27. Nowhere is there any information about what Ms. Sedgwick did to merit "bitch" or "bad" or to serve as any kind of example of women attempting to realize themselves and their potential through the vehicle of "badness" or rebellion against the stifling good girl image. Ms. Sedgwick was just Sixties fashion, another photogenic, thin girl in front of a lens, looking strung-out beautiful instead of Jean Shrimpton beautiful. One can trace the heroin high fashion look in today's magazines straight back to Edie.The problem with this book is that Ms. Wurtzel's Harvard credentials, facility with words, and manic energy, can lull the reader into thinking there's actually something being said here. That this might actually be a serious work of some sort of scholarship. In the end, the message is that only beautiful girls can be bad and bitchy, just like only beautiful girls can be models and actresses or marry a prince. Most of them wind up dead way before their time. There's a book out there, somewhere, about the value of standing up for yourself and rebelling against the rules that choke women from birth, but this isn't it.
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