So, I finally got my hands on a copy of ‘Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Let me just say, I really, really wanted to like this book. I endured reading it because, well, I’m right into the ‘memoirs of famous mentally-unstable women’ lately. But there’s a reason I use the quantifier “wanted”; no matter how hard I tried, I just really didn’t like this book.
Stylistically and technically, it’s not too bad; she uses the (somewhat typical) devices of unconventional syntax, punctuation and grammar in order to convey Wurtzel’s chaotic emotions over the course of the book. Some of it is quite creative, but it lacks the unique, creative analogies and metaphors of, say, Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, or the tangential reflections of Kaysen’s ‘Girl, Interrupted’. I know that it’s unfair to compare the 3 books, but it’s virtually impossible not to associated them, give their similar content. Wurtzel herself makes reference – perhaps a little conceitedly – to ‘The Bell Jar’, but in the end the lack of insight, and the completely self-indulgent nature of ‘Prozac Nation’ clearly sets them apart. Obviously, in a book that is more or less a memoir, introspection is to be expected; however, the book is less self-reflective and more narcissistic.
Which brings me to my major problem with the book; Wurtzel’s characterisation of herself (I don’t want to say Wurtzel herself, because I’ve never met her, obviously), and the fact that she has almost entirely replaced ‘plot’, pacing and narrative for extended self-pity and time-jumping whining. The entire structure of the book is basically trying to prove that Wurtzel has reason for being depressed (the fact that she admits that she ‘has no real reason for being depressed’ doesn’t qualify the fact that she spends a GREAT deal of the book trying to prove why she has a ‘right’ to be depressed, as though genuine mental illness requires an excuse). And this appears to be the sole aim of the 370 pages of self-pitying, self-indulgent drivel.
A lot of the reviews of this book seem to overlook Wurtzel’s blatant ‘woe is me, I’m so hard done by’ attitude in order to conclude that it’s an ‘important work’ because it depicts severe depression from the perspective of someone suffering it. I’m sorry, but there are a lot of better pieces out there (such as the Bell Jar) that depict the exact same thing, and with more insight and less whining. It’s pretty rare that I have to force myself to finish reading a book, but I was so incredibly irritated with Wurtzel and her narcissistic attention-seeking that, by the end of it, I was reading as fast as I can, purely in order to get it over and done with.
Overall, 4/10. Some good technical aspects, and 1 paragraph out of every 50 is interesting or insightful, but on the whole, the book drips with self-pity and attention-seeking self-indulgence.