Elizabeth Wurtzel, Trad

Elizabeth Wurtzel, Trad
(Courtesy of Riverhead/Penguin Random House via AP)

lizabeth Wurtzel died last month. She was the author of Prozac Nation, a memoir both insightful and infuriating, which she published in 1994 when she was only 27. The book is an unflinching tour through the psyche of that most 1990s of types, the depressed child of divorcees, born into “privilege” and staring into the void. It’s also obsessed with itself to an almost unseemly degree, hyper-focusing on the author’s every tic and stumble until all but she can’t help but look away.

Prozac Nation is an account of Wurtzel’s struggle with depression. In its day, it became a kind of canonical text for the depressed, with Wurtzel compared to Sylvia Plath. Wurtzel first overdosed when she was only 12, on antihistamines at a summer camp. She refers to her depression as a “black wave,” and spends much of the book running from it. At each new chapter in her life—college, a move to Texas, a return to New York—she hopes the change in scenery will see it gone for good, only for it to chase her down and swallow her in its shadow. There is no refuge, no glittering Oz where her depression can’t reach. Try though she does, her outward experiences can’t be made to transcend her inner storms.

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