On the road with ''Prozac'''s Elizabeth Wurtzel -- The author of ''More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction'' owns up to her drug use and faces up to her critics
Of course Elizabeth Wurtzel doesn’t read reviews. They’d make anyone depressed, let alone the author who suffers from a malaise that fed the memoir ”Prozac Nation.” The Washington Post calls her latest confessional, ”More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction,” a ”literary fiasco” while Esquire prays it’s the ”final belch from a glutted decade.” The Salon.com reviewer goes so far as to spit, ”Sorry, Elizabeth. Wake up dead next time and you might have a book on your hands.”
Which is why it’s so unfortunate that guests at Seattle’s Alexis Hotel, where she is staying while in town on her nine-city American book tour, get copies of USA Today dropped on their doorsteps each morning. ”Wurtzel revisits misery,” the headline yawns. The writer, taking issue with her trademark I’m-damaged-come-hither cover photo, calls the 34-year-old author ”the closest thing to Britney Spears that Harvard College has ever produced.” She takes the unwelcome critique in surprising stride. ”If the worst thing that can be said about me is that I’m the Britney Spears of the literary world…” she laughs dismissively. ”And really, who else is going to fill that slot?”
She doesn’t understand why the literary world gives her such a hard time for writing another autobiography. ”Joni Mitchell has 20 albums about her emotional problems,” she points out, ”and nobody says, ‘Oh my God…can’t she do anything else?”’ So she’s grateful to be away from the club of New York journalists back home who hold her in such low regard. She doesn’t mind the daily scramble from market to market. Or the hotels that hassle her by refusing to open the kitchen to send her up an after-midnight cheese plate. Or that this cross-country publicity trek forces her to retrace the wobbly steps of her 1997 tour for ”Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women,” when she had FedExed packages of cocaine waiting for her at hotel check-ins.
Wurtzel made it onto best-seller charts in 1994 with ”Prozac Nation,” her firsthand account of being ”young and depressed in America.” ”I think I thought that when it came out I was going to suddenly be a different person, that the air around me was going to tingle,” she remembers. ”I couldn’t believe I was still me…. It’s not like I sat around and said, ‘Oh, I know what I can do, I can become a drug addict,’ but that’s kind of what ended up happening.” Her highly anticipated follow-up, ”Bitch,” which Doubleday bought for $500,000, was written in a Ritalin- and coke-induced flurry in a Fort Lauderdale apartment. ”More, Now, Again,” which Simon & Schuster bought for half of her last advance, rehashes those addict years, cementing the critical view that she’s a narcissist in the first degree.
Wurtzel has been clean for more than three years and can’t imagine anything ever driving her back to drugs. But she admits to missing the lifestyle. ”One of the things I liked about [being an addict] is that it’s such a constant activity,” says Wurtzel. ”You don’t have time to think about anything else. I found that such a relief because thinking about other things is so tiring. It’s not unlike being on a book tour where all you have to worry about is the next interview.”