Either you love her or want to smack her. Just as she did with Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel is stirring up passionate debate with her smart new book, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women.
Uh-oh. it?s the second book from Elizabeth Wurtzel, the tad-too-calculated human train wreck, self-proclaimed depressive, and off-and-on druggie, the Courtney Love of letters. So it?s natural to expect Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women to be as shrewdly zeitgeist ready as her first effort, 1994?s self-serving but cannily marketed Prozac Nation. Bitch, which purports to dissect high-maintenance types like the biblical Delilah, Amy Fisher, Hillary Clinton, Nicole Brown Simpson, Sylvia Plath, and Margaux Hemingway, reads like a long, messy E-mail from an insomniac on a manic high. The prose, seemingly untouched by editors, is windy, incessantly self-referential, and packed with show-offy references to everyone from Aeschylus to the Queen of Sheba. It?s only nominally about difficult women; it is, rather, The World According to Elizabeth Wurtzel.
It?s also an extraordinarily thought-provoking, absorbing, wise, often poignant read. You can disagree with Wurtzel, but at least she always has a passionate point of view. She defends the marriage of Hillary and Bill Clinton as a triumph of perseverance; she champions Amy Fisher; she points out, as many feminists were loath to, that the relationship between Nicole and O.J. Simpson was more complex than merely victim and villain; she expertly analyzes the odd, doomed attraction between powerless women like Gennifer Flowers and the powerful men they often nearly bring down, like Clinton. Unlike Prozac Nation, which seemed transparently the work of a too-smart Harvard kid who suckered The New Yorker into hiring her at age 24 and figured book publishing was another easy mark, Bitch feels authentic, the ravings of someone who in another era would be either a reclusive scholar or remanded to an insane asylum.