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'Prozac Nation' author Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967–2020), bestselling author of “Prozac Nation”

by Linnea Crowther

Elizabeth Wurtzel was the author of the bestselling 1994 memoir “Prozac Nation,” which detailed her long-running battle with depression, beginning when she was a child. Published when she was 27, “Prozac Nation” became a sensation for its candid, sometimes funny and sometimes soberly insightful look at Wurtzel’s own heavily medicated life, warts and all. “Prozac Nation” was an early entry in the burgeoning genre of mental health memoirs, and Wurtzel received both high praise and harsh criticism for the book. Critics called it excruciating and luminescent, narcissistic and emotionally powerful. After “Prozac Nation,” Wurtzel continued her writing career as well as later attending law school.

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Died: January 7, 2020 (Who else died on January 7?)


Details of death: Died in New York of metastatic breast cancer at the age of 52.

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Wurtzel’s other books: Wurtzel published four more books after “Prozac Nation” in addition to a variety of articles for The Wall Street Journal, Elle, New York Magazine, and other publications. Her follow-up to “Prozac Nation” was “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women” (1998), a collection of essays on women including Hillary Clinton and Nicole Brown Simpson. “More, Now, Again” (2001) returned to Wurtzel’s own depression and chronicled her addictions to Ritalin and cocaine, while “Radical Sanity: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women (2004) offered advice on topics including romance, careers, and beauty. Wurtzel’s final book, 2015’s “Creatocracy: How the Constitution Invented Hollywood,” made connections between American history and pop culture.

Notable quote: “That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” —From “Prozac Nation”

What people said about her: “I met Lizzie in law school. She started mid-career as I was starting young. We were both misfits and she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might otherwise have been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us. I miss her.” —Journalist Ronan Farrow

“It’s impossible to convey the impact Elizabeth Wurtzel had in the ‘90s. She was unapologetic, raw, honest. She stood for a very specific form of GenX femininity, confession, rage. We leaned from her — and from how intensely she was mocked for writing about her own life.” —Journalist Erin Blakemore

“She was, as she once wrote, ‘the most impossible person ever’ and loved to argue. But she was also a truly brilliant writer, widely influential, and always searingly honest. Really sad about the death of Elizabeth Wurtzel at 52 from breast cancer.” —Author Hannah Jane Parkinson

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • Sylvia Plath (1932–1963), confessional poet and novelist inspired comparisons to Wurtzel
  • Toni Morrison (1931–2019), Nobel Prize-winning author of “Beloved”
  • Anita Shreve (1946–2018), bestselling author of “The Pilot’s Wife”

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