on February 28, 2007
What prompted me to write a review for this book was how much I love it, and how many bad reviews its gotten. People say Wurtzel is selfish, narcissistic, self-centered, and completely focused only on herself and her own life. YES folks, it's a memoir about HER life and HER drug addiction. What people don't understand is that depression and addiction are two VERY self-centering things. Depression is, in its nature, the inability to get out of onesself in order to exist in the world. I am, like Wurtzel, an only child. I was also an addict and I also suffered from depression. I think you need to really understand what it is like to endure these things before you can truly comprehend that she is not a bratty woman, still looking for her mommy and daddy's affections -- as critics will have you believe -- she was suffering, and she bleeds her heart open to you, the reader, in ALL her books. She spares nothing, she embarasses herself, humiliates herself, she is not saying I am Elizabeth Wurtzel and I have no flaws, I am perfect. She is saying, I am Elizabeth Wurtzel and THESE are my flaws, THESE are my imperfections, perhaps you can learn from them. It's a MEMOIR folks, it's ALL gonna be about HER life and HER gripes, and HER suffering. That's not narcissism. That's honesty.
on August 5, 2005
It's funny, but every Elizabeth Wurtzel review I've read (including reviews on Prozac Nation the film) is one extreme or the other. The people who trash her work always whine about the same things: it's self-absorbed, she's a brat, omg my friend's-brother's-nephew's-playmate's-mother's-hairdresser went through like WAY WORSE STUFF THAN HER!!!111
Look, folks, this a writer whose first novel was her memoirs about depression. Depressed people and addicts are not pleasant to be around. They're frustrating, demanding, unreliable, irritating and they make you want to scream at them to make them "normal". That seems to be the biggest problem that people have with her books - she doesn't sugarcoat anything and she doesn't try to make depression or addiction look glamourous. If this doesn't sound like something that will interest you, don't even bother reading it, because I can guarantee that you'll hate it.
on December 13, 2005
Wurtzel's second memoir is account of her fall into Ritalin addiction (crushing and snorting the pills) and then cocaine addiction, all while writing her bestseller Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. She isolated herself in Florida, obsessively writing and re-writing drafts of her book. She freely admitted her addition and planned to get clean "as soon as the book was done." She convinced friends and family to look the other way as she used drug in front of them. At one low point before her first stint in rehab, she was essentially living at the NY Doubleday offices, disheveled, attempting to edit her book, and having cocaine delivered to the lobby by courier service. It was amazing what a large scale she got codependency to work for her.
Wurtzel enters rehab, lives in a halfway house, relapses, and tries alternate forms of treatment on the long road to sobriety. At one point, she finally gets a therapist who pushes her beyond her eloquent speech and word play. Wurtzel has to come to terms with her "terminal uniqueness," which a lot of addicts suffer. Wurtzel really *is* special, talented, and respected worldwide, but when it comes to her addiction, she's no different from anyone else. She also learns that there are no reasons why an addict uses, that addicts use because they are addicts, and any reason for using can be invented. She plays games, comparing heroin and cocaine and deciding her cocaine addiction is "better" because it is of the mind, not of the body like heroin. She comforts herself because you can't OD on Ritalin and cocaine like you can on other drugs.
After Prozac Nation and over the years, many readers have commented that Wurtzel is a whiny narrator. She is indeed. Depressed people are whiny and inherently unlikable, and it comes across in the narrative. Depressed drug-addicted people? Even more self-absorbed and irritating to be around. The strength of Wurtzel's book(s) is that she places the reader directly in that whiny, self-absorbed place. She lets us in to her insane mind games justifying her addition. Anyone recovering from addiction or dealing with an addict will see recognizable elements here.
My recommended reading order for newbies to Elizabeth Wurtzel is (1) Prozac Nation (ground-breaking work with a personal portrait of depression before the days of safe anti-depressants), (2) More, Now, Again (watch that person from Prozac Nation fall again and again into drug addiction), and (3) Bitch (read the book she wrote when she was high on Ritalin and cocaine, the book the obsessively re-edited in drug-addicted isolation).
on November 20, 2003
Firstly, I do have to agree that Elizabeth Wurtzel comes off as very self absorbed, and in Prozac Nation, almost whiny. However, I can't help but feel thats the nature of the beast.
Mental Illness often creates an enormity of self absorbion, I speak from experience. From what I've read of my own issues, and from reading her books, I do wonder if she has depression on its own, or has a personality disorder on top of things. Narcisistic PD, or Borderline PD? I'm no expert, but there were bits in More, Now, Again that suggest symptoms of either.
Drug abuse can also create a great deal of self obsession; junkie logic is a law unto itself, and as a junkie, you do become a me me me more drugs person.
I found Prozac Nation interesting, as it showed the full ugliness of depression, and how it affects those around you. Yes it was whiny, but thats what depressives can be like.
As for More, Now, Again... It made me realise I had a problem with drugs, and I had to go do something about it. And it, like Prozac Nation, was whiny and self absorbed, but yet again I know many junkies, and that is what they're like.
I think that although there is whinging and whining, and self absorbion throughout BOTH her "memoirs", I (and I'm not an optimist) believe that she is writing the ugly truth, without sugar coating. Depressives and drug users are notorious for being self absorbed, and she is no exception. I like the fact she gets into the nitty gritty, and doesn't hide the worst of her behaviour from the reader.
on April 11, 2004
This woman would be pitiful if she were not so apallingly arrogant. She is genuinely sick; however, one cannot feel sorry for her in the face of her meanspirited remarks. She has had every advantage, yet she obviously learned nothing at Harvard. She boasts that she is the leading non-fiction writer of her generation and that she is the 'prettiest girl she knows." This is good because no one else thinks so. She may have a ph.d. in the reader's digest or in junk food, but she certainly is not worldly, knowledgeable or scholarly. I haven't read one good review of any of her books. How in heaven's name could this sloppy work have been published? The publishers were evidently high as well. I feel sorry for the poor trees that sacrificed their lives for the paper.
on June 22, 2007
I couldn't put this one down. I randomly came across it in the library, and having heard that her first book "Prozac Nation" was a big hit, I was looking forward to finally reading some of her work. By virtue of being a memoir, the book is extremely self-involved, but hey, I'm self-involved, too. I was pretty much blown away. She has the unique ability to make people feel understood by reading about her own experience. She describes my world better than I ever could.
"This is how you become an addict. You have no inner resources, you drive people crazy with all your neediness, years go by, you don't grow up, people lose patience, and all that's left is whatever gets you through. Lots of people will go out on a binge if they get fired or if their girlfriend leaves, but not me. That stuff, I can handle. For me, it's the broken shoelaces that have got me hooked. It's the stuff that most people can handle that makes addicts get high. We get high over nothing.
I am an addict and I like it, try and stop me.
It's nice to cry over something or somebody who isn't me. Or aren't all our tears really for ourselves anyway? When we cry with joy at weddings, aren't we really sad that such happiness belongs to someone else? All our emotions, even the generous ones, even empathy, are really just a way of bringing the woes of the world closer to home. It's all one big opportunity to feel, to feel more.
Of course, everyone here thinks they have something in common, we are all addicts, and we are all the same. But that doesn't work with me. The desire to be seen as superior and singular -- and, conversely but similarly, inferior and individual -- is a big topic in AA and NA and addiction recovery of all sorts. They even have a term for the syndrome -- it is called terminal uniqueness. We refuse to be a part of the crowd, to walk in the middle of the road in the safety of others. We all think we're special. Of course, I know that all addicts think that. Whatever they've got to show for themselves, they all believe in some way that they are unique -- they think their emotions are special, their inner life is one of a kind. And if they have not achieved much, they believe they are hampered by addiction. Everyone I have ever met at an AA or NA meeting is a genius, despite the evidence or lack thereof. Everyone has artistic talent that was discouraged by their mean, misunderstanding parents. Everyone is misunderstood.
But by the time I empty out my boxes of belongings into my bureau and shelves in the Cottage, the thrill is gone. I am, at heart, still an addict, and for people like us, the thrill is always gone. It's leaving before it has even arrived. Every time my dealer dropped off my fix of cocaine, I was already trying to figure out when he would bring more -- and this was before I'd even gotten started on what was there. And pretty soon it becomes a way of life: there are no moments of joy, because you are always anticipating when the next possible moments of joy might arrive. As soon as tomorrow? As late as next year? Maybe in a week or two? Not that it matters, because you would not enjoy that joy either, you'd be too busy wondering where the next fix of fun would come from. Addiction is, in essence, an inability to live in the moment."
Probably not recommended for people who don't suffer like Elizabeth Wurtzel has. Only then can you appreciate a story like hers.
on April 7, 2014
This was the most uninteresting book I have ever read. And I believe the main reason for that is not that the writer is unskilled or lacks talent, but rather she clearly has issues with thinking herself way more interesting than she actually is. Had the author been more willing to go beyond the shallow end of her life into the deep waters this would have made for a fascinating read. But, I'm not sure I can even blame her for that because I don't think there is a deep end in her ocean of life.
The typical addict's daily life is a boring wash, rinse repeat - you know, wake-up score drugs, get high, pass out repeat tomorrow. Once in awhile there maybe some drama normally inherent in living the life of an addict such as bad drugs, being done wrong by the dealer, and the classic "OD." Once you take away those nuggets of excitement then you're left with this book - pages upon pages of suspicions remembrances of conversations and scoring drugs, sleeping, and scab picking. I don't know any addicts who have such clear memories of conversations they had with people during their time in addiction. So I question the author's account and her editor and her publishers' willingness to publish without the tag of fiction to some degree being attached. I suppose it wasn't worth the fight with the author to tell her the conversations that take place in her head with herself are not considered real conversation in the general use of the term.
I'd love to have the money I spent on this muses of a narcissist but it's a lesson learn to not support this writer in the future.
Reading an Elizabeth Wurtzel book is like watching a slow-motion train moving towards a stalled car: you don't really want to look because of the impending crash, but you look anyhow. Her latest book, "More Now Again" is a peculiar look inside the mind of a repeat addict, which has some definite bumpy spots sprinkled with insight.
It begins as Wurtzel is seemingly clean of her drug addictions, until she is prescribed Ritalin for an attention-span problem. However, she soon began crushing the pills and snorting them, as she once did cocaine, because she missed sniffing things. Soon cocaine and stolen pills are back in her life, as she ends up stuck in obsessive behavior patterns, engages in inept shoplifting, and spins back into the world of addiction.
Wurtzel is alternately annoying and sympathetic; she frankly admits to handicapping marriages whenever she can, and to stealing when big-store clerks don't serve her fast enough, though she claims to scrupulously not steal from small stores. At the same time, there is something pitifully sympathetic about her spiral into addiction and the humiliating arrest when she was unable to stop sobbing. It's difficult to explain exactly what qualities in Wurtzel are either annoying or endearing, because of the blatant honesty with which she presents unsympathetic facets of herself such as, for example, her rantings about how she feels for Timothy McVeigh. There are passages where readers will sympathize with Wurtzel's long-suffering mother, who wants her to be "normal."
However, her descriptions of both drug addiction and the psychological state that drags certain people back to it is both harrowing and revealing. We see Wurtzel obsessively underlining interesting passages in a book and tweezing her legs to the bone, but walking around with filthy hair and a shirt stained with spilled coffee and tea. However, she does not go to the other extreme, which too often ends up glamorizing addiction; rather, she tells the reader plainly and calmly what she does, without overemphasizing it. Only occasionally does her prose lapse into a sense of true panic and/or despair. In one particularly affecting passage, she describes the mindset of a repeat addict: "It's the stuff people can handle that makes addicts get high. We get high over nothing."
Perhaps the best look at Wurtzel is the picture on the back cover. Though at first glance she seems like a conventionally pretty blonde with artfully-arranged hair, makeup and clothing, her large, heavily dark-rimmed, staring eyes add an air of bizarre sadness to her face.
Her writing style has an addled air most of the time, as if she were still on drugs as she wrote it. The frequent lapses into self-examination are sometimes interesting but sometimes merely seem self-indulgent. However, they never lack in response quality: whether it is an angry bristling or nods of sudden understanding, the readers WILL react with one emotion or another.
Love her or loathe her, Elizabeth Wurtzel provides a bizarre, sometimes disgusting look at addiction in this follow-up to "Prozac Nation." Her fans will enjoy it, her detractors will be revolted by it, and newcomers may not be sure what to think.
on February 18, 2002
Wurtzel spins a tale that brings several harrowing years of her life vividly into the mind of the reader. Creative, bright, driven, and always close to the edge, speed addiction completely takes over her life for a couple years, eclipsing people and food and most events like going outside. I loved a number of insights and turns of phrase I hope I'll remember for years. (Complaining that she can't go to Betty Ford because she dislikes the name of one nurse, she adds, "I'll never make it in rehab with this attitude. On the other hand, without this attitude [and her life in shreds], I wouldn't need to be in rehab." Her style is at its best in describing her darkest addiction experiences almost as if we're reading a diary - quite a trick, particularly when she bumps up against real people and things in her strung-out state and they insert into the narrative like gawky Martians. How it seems clever and rational for a bright Harvard girl to be living in a Florida strip motel as a hollow-eyed, anorexic shell and going to six different emergency rooms for the same problem in three weeks; how to explain while thrown in jail for shoplifting that you need to snort speed or your head will explode, and you'll call the ACLU. The story takes her on through several cycles between rehab's and twelve-step programs and relapses, but the ultimate recovery story was as moving and convincing as any. "Less than Zero" meets Ann Sexton meets Eric Bogosian meets Leaving Las Vegas....
on February 26, 2002
Henry Miller wrote, "No one - not even God - knows what a man suffers on the inside." So I'll give Elizabeth Wurtzel, the human being, the benefit of the doubt and assume that her pain (whose nature is never made quite clear, but seems to have something to do with her mother not understanding her) is as authentic and deserving of our human sympathy as that of Diana Spencer (whose death Wurtzel mourns, "just because she was so pretty"), the World Trade Center victims (to whom Wurtzel is apparently indifferent, but who probably weren't that good looking on average), or, for that matter, you or me.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Wurtzel, the narrator of this book, had better hope that God loves her because it's not likely that too many other people will. (Her editor, who lets Wurtzel hole up in the publisher's offices during her terminal coke binge to insure the completion of her second book, doesn't count.) To describe her as "narcissistic" would be hopelessly inadequate. Enraptured self-involvement on this scale approaches the sociopathic. It would be one thing if the self being celebrated were a writer as insightful and masterly as, say, Colette. But when the best you can muster is urban-zingy wisecracks, not infrequently plagiarized from rock lyrics (note to Wurtzel: if you're going to rip off a Paul Westerberg lyric - i.e. "waitress in the sky" - it's not very smart to epigraph your chapter with another Paul Westerberg lyric), the result is pretty pathetic.
"More, Now, Again" does represent an artistic advance for the authoress, inasmuch as her photograph appears on the back cover rather than the front, and that she doesn't appear nude in it. (It is a large color photograph that takes up the entire back of the dust jacket, and she does pout rather come-hitherly in it, but still.) But how well can you identify with an addiction narrative when hitting bottom consists of - I swear I'm not joking - sleeping through an opportunity to do a photo shoot for Coach bags?