From Prozac Nation to Yale Law School? Elizabeth Wurtzel's Unlikely Journey

"Prozac Nation" became a cultural phenomenon, casting a shadow over the typical image of an Ivy League student and letting the world see that indeed, drugs, depression, casual sex and isolation could affect anyone, and the book was made into a film with an impressive cast of characters -- Wurtzel was aptly played by Christina Ricci, and Jessica Lange, Michelle Williams and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers were also in the cast. Although it was never released theatrically, the fact that it drew interest from such a talented cast speaks to the impression that the book made.

For many people, particularly depressed people, her memoir gave a voice to the depths of sadness that they felt and could not express.

"More, Now, Again" is another memoir -- this time a painful, eloquent recount of her addiction to several drugs (primarily Ritalin and cocaine). Wurtzel navigates heart-wrenching experiences like a driver on a race course, exhausting SAT words in her wake.

The press, however, wasn't always kind to her, faulting her for writing a memoir at the young age of 27, and for what some interpreted as metaphorically rolling around in the mud of her tragic coolness.

'It Didn't Make Me Any Less Me'

But the criticism didn't slow her sales.

So, after being depressed, writing a book, making money, acquiring fame and suddenly seeing her life changed … problems solved, right?


"The big shock in life is, you get a new job, you're still you. You go to college, you're still you. That's the big disappointment. Those big, transcendant moments that you're waiting for, it doesn't happen. I expected to feel so different, and I didn't. It didn't make me any less me," Wurtzel says.

Just being herself may have been the problem, as years of depression and drug addiction can become a problem for anyone.

But none of it has stopped her from moving her professional life forward at a speed that most would envy.

This week Wurtzel published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, stating that because the First Amendment gives people the right to say anything, they often do -- and often it's mean-spirited. Pleading for kindness, she wrote that the "unpoliced World Wide Web is really a mess. It's unpoliced, which demands that we be better people, gentler and more humane."

While it does seem ironic that the writer of these memoirs is asking people to limit what they say in public forums -- after all, "Prozac Nation" heralded what is now a culture of exposure, of laying open your life for any and all to see in a literary way -- more and more that exposure is now done in a literal way, with webcams, Myspace pages, blogs and YouTube.

The difference, says Wurtzel, is that this culture of exposure is becoming accustomed to the exposure of others, often without regard for the consequences the exposure may have on their lives.

The Next Step

Wurtzel plans to write another book in the next year, a series of essays about patriotism and great American inventions -- like Bruce Springsteen, and "having a pill for everything."

It's a typically eclectic vision, but Wurtzel says that, like an author's midcareer diversion into law, it's all just part of her journey.

"Isn't everything for everybody part of the process of figuring [life] out? It's an unfortunate thing about life such as we live it now, that people don't just explore. It's a little bit alarming that life has become such a plan that people don't give themselves credit just for living and enjoying it."

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