Books

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, dies at 52

Wurtzel died on Tuesday at a hospital in Manhattan after a long battle with breast cancer.

Wurtzel died on Jan. 7 at a hospital in Manhattan after a long battle with breast cancer

Elizabeth Wurtzel in 2015. Wurtzel is a U.S. writer and journalist, known for publishing her bestselling memoir Prozac Nation. (Dan Callister/Shutterstock)

Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose blunt and painful confessions of her struggles with addiction and depression in the bestselling Prozac Nation made her a voice and a target for an anxious generation, died Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020 at age 52.

Wurtzel's husband, Jim Freed, told The Associated Press that she died at a Manhattan hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Prozac Nation was published in 1994 when Wurtzel was in her mid-20s and set off a debate that lasted for much of her life. Critics praised her for her candour and accused her of self-pity and self-indulgence, vices she fully acknowledged.

Wurtzel wrote of growing up in a home torn by divorce, of cutting herself when she was in her early teens, and of spending her adolescence in a storm of tears, drugs, bad love affairs and family fights.

"I don't mean to sound like a spoiled brat," she wrote. "I know that into every sunny life a little rain must fall and all that, but in my case the crisis-level hysteria is an all-too-recurring theme."

Wurtzel became a celebrity, a symbol and, for some, a punchline.

Newsweek called her ″the famously depressed Elizabeth Wurtzel.″ She was widely ridiculed after a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail in which she spoke dismissively of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from the year before.

″I just felt, like, everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me," she said, remarks that she later said were misrepresented.

But many readers embraced her story and would credit her with helping them face their own troubles. News of her death was met with expressions of grief and gratitude.

The Canadian writer Anne Theriault tweeted: "It's hard for me to even articulate how important Prozac Nation was to me at a certain point in my life."

Wurtzel's other books included Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women and More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction. Her essays were published in the New York Times, New York magazine and other publications.

In a 2015 piece for the Times, she described her initial success in fighting her cancer diagnosis.

"I live in an age of miracles and wonders, when they cure cancer with viruses. If I ever meet cancer again, I will figure it out. You see, I am very Jewish, which is to say... I am undefeated by the worst," she wrote. "But I would have preferred to skip this. That would have been much better."

With files from CBC Books.

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