Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bitch by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel is the kind of book I want to love. Wurtzel is erudite and she addresses her theme, praising those women who are often seen as bitches, with a strident and clear voice. I found myself agreeing with her often, rolling my eyes in dismay more often, and wondering why anyone wanted her to be the sole voice of this topic. The problem is, ultimately, that you get one woman’s perspective and unless you find her point of view enlightening, agreeable, intriguing and/or provocative, you’ll come to the Epilogue with an expectation that finally Wurtzel will draw some conclusions that don’t sound pathetic or desperate. I think you have to read between the lines to find the praise. When she writes about Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita who shot her lover’s wife in the head, her defense of Fisher as a victim is obvious. Too obvious. It brings nothing new to the table. Her denigration of Hillary Clinton is not a typical conservative line of attack so much as a whining complaint that Clinton seems to be a feminist while not living up to Wurtzel’s feminist ideal. The few and far between women who do seem to come close have, since this book’s publication, proven to be far from potential role models. I think that many readers of a different era would probably read this book and hear nothing but a brat bitching about how the older generation didn’t get it right. Rather like those Civil Rights leaders who screamed against Uncle Toms rather than acknowledging the previous generations’ sacrifices that made it possible for anyone to speak out, let alone scream. Her frustration with the failings of Steinam, et al, is tedious mostly because she says it over and over and by the end of the book her point could have, and maybe should have, been said in far fewer words. I wonder if it isn’t just that I am reading the words of a barely 30 year old woman from a 46 year old woman’s perspective. Maybe I’ve had too many experience to still be caught up in regretting them, as Wurtzel clearly regrets some of her own. Or maybe I don't appreciate her dilemma as I never dreamed about my perfect wedding, didn't daydream about what I or my bridesmaids would wear, and still don't know what the fuss is about the ceremony when the marriage is the real deal and takes work. A lot more work and stress, by the way, than even the most elaborate wedding would ever require. I almost would rather read her memoir than her thoughts on how other people lived her life. But I have a feeling that her memoir would remind me of those “coming-of-age” novels I read last year in which the protagonist is actually in their 30s and should have come at least a decade earlier. Still, I have hope for Wurtzel. I think when she’s my age, she’ll be a lot more content with herself and her life. Edit Apparently she has written memoirs. Her book, Prozac Nation, is a memoir. I honestly thought it would be a similar collection of her thoughts on how people medicate to deal with life, allowing her an opportunity to climb on yet another soapbox and talk wonderfully but endlessly about her stance on the issue. (I would probably agree with her fully, to tell the truth.) She's also written another memoir, More, Now, Again, is yet another memoir about her addiction . . . to prozac? I don't know. I'd have to read it to know and I haven't.

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