Elizabeth Wurtzel

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Elizabeth Wurtzel
Elizabeth Wurtzel, in Brooklyn, NY (October 2014)
Elizabeth Wurtzel, in Brooklyn, NY (October 2014)
BornElizabeth Lee Wurtzel
(1967-07-31) July 31, 1967 (age 51)
New York, New York, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, journalist, lawyer
EducationHarvard College
Yale Law School
GenreConfessional memoir
Notable worksProzac Nation
James Freed (m. 2015)

Elizabeth Lee Wurtzel (born July 31, 1967)[1] is an American writer and journalist, known for publishing her best-selling memoir Prozac Nation, at the age of 26. She holds a BA in comparative literature[2] from Harvard College and a JD from Yale Law School.

Early life[edit]

Wurtzel was brought up in New York City, in a Jewish family.[3] Her parents, Lynne Winters and Donald Wurtzel, divorced when she was young.[4] Her mother is a media consultant.[5] In 2016, Wurtzel discovered that her biological father was photographer Bob Adelman, and that she was the product of an affair between him and her mother when they both worked for Random House in the 1960s. On December 24, 2018, she detailed the discovery in an article published in The Cut.[6]

As described in her memoir Prozac Nation, Wurtzel's depression began at the ages of ten to twelve. She attended the Ramaz School in New York City.[7] While an undergraduate at Harvard College, she wrote for The Harvard Crimson and The Dallas Morning News; she was fired from the latter publication in 1988 after being accused of plagiarism.[8] Wurtzel also received the 1986 Rolling Stone College Journalism Award.[9][10] Wurtzel subsequently moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and found work as pop music critic for The New Yorker and New York Magazine. A critic for The New York Times characterized her contributions to the former publication as "unintentionally hilarious." [11] Dwight Garner wrote in Salon.com that her column "was so roundly despised that I sometimes felt like its only friend in the world."[12]

Prozac Nation[edit]

Wurtzel is best known for her best-selling 1994 memoir Prozac Nation, published when she was 26. The book chronicles her battle with depression as a college undergraduate and her eventual treatment with the medication Prozac. In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote, “Wrenching and comical, self-indulgent and self-aware, Prozac Nation possesses the raw candor of Joan Didion's essays, the irritating emotional exhibitionism of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and the wry, dark humor of a Bob Dylan song.” The paperback was a New York Times bestseller. The film adaptation of Prozac Nation, starring Christina Ricci, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2001.[13]

Bitch and More, Now, Again[edit]

Wurtzel's follow-up memoir to Prozac Nation, was titled Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (1998). The book earned a mixed review from Karen Lermahn in The New York Times; Lerhman wrote that while Bitch "is full of enormous contradictions, bizarre digressions and illogical outbursts, it is also one of the more honest, insightful and witty books on the subject of women to have come along in a while."[14]

More, Now, Again (2001) dealt with her Ritalin addiction and tweezing habits, among other subjects. It received generally negative reviews. In Salon.com, Peter Kurth wrote that Wurtzel "imagines that every word she utters and every thought that pops into her head is fraught with meaning and portent. And still her new book goes nowhere." He called the book "dysfunctional," characterized the author as an "overage adolescent," and concluded, "Sorry, Elizabeth. Wake up dead next time and you might have a book on your hands."[15] In the Guardian, Toby Young wrote that "Wurtzel's overweening self-regard oozes from every sentence" and concluded, "In a sense, More, Now, Again is the reductio ad absurdum of this whole self-obsessed genre: it's a confessional memoir by someone who has nothing to confess. Wurtzel has nothing to declare apart from her self-adoration. A better title for it would be Me, Myself, I."[16]

Law school[edit]

In 2004, she applied to Yale Law School. She later wrote that she never intended pursuing a career as a lawyer, but rather had simply wanted to attend law school.[17] She was accepted at Yale despite the fact that "... Her combined LSAT score of 160 was, as she put it, 'adequately bad' ... 'Suffice it to say I was admitted for other reasons,' Ms. Wurtzel said. 'My books, my accomplishments.'..."[18] She was a summer associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.[19] She received her J.D. in 2008, but failed the New York bar exam on her first attempt.

Wurtzel sparked controversy in the legal community by holding herself out as a lawyer in interviews, even though she was not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction at the time.[20] Wurtzel passed the February 2010 New York State bar exam,[21] and was employed full-time at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in New York City from 2008 to 2012.[22] She has continued to work for the firm as a case manager and on special projects.[23] In July 2010, she wrote a proposal in the Brennan Law Center blog for abolishing bar exams.[24]

Writing career[edit]

While an intern at Dallas Morning News, Wurtzel was fired for fabricating quotations in an unpublished article.[25]

Wurtzel has written regularly for The Wall Street Journal.[26]

On September 21, 2008 after the suicide of writer David Foster Wallace, Wurtzel wrote an article for New York about time spent with him.[27] Gawker.com suggested that they had had a romantic relationship. [28]

In January 2009, she wrote an article for The Guardian,[29] arguing that the vehemence of opposition demonstrated in Europe to Israel's actions in the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, when compared to the international reaction to human rights abuses in China, Darfur, and Arab countries, suggested an antisemitic undercurrent fueling the outrage.

In 2009 Wurtzel wrote an article in Elle magazine about societal pressures related to aging.[30] In the frank article, she discusses her regrets about her youth of casual sex and drug-taking, and her realization that she is not as beautiful as she once was. In the article, she writes that "whoever said youth is wasted on the young actually got it wrong; it's more that maturity is wasted on the old."

Wurtzel's publisher, Penguin, sued her in September 2012 in an effort to reclaim a $100,000 advance for a 2003 book contract for "a book for teenagers to help them cope with depression" that Wurtzel failed to complete. Of the $100,000, Penguin advanced Wurtzel $33,000 and sought interest of $7,500, claiming to have suffered detriment at Wurtzel's expense.[31] The case is still in litigation.

In early 2013 Wurtzel published a New York Magazine article lamenting the unconventional choices she had made in life, including heroin use and spending much of a lucrative publisher advance on a costly Birkin bag, and her failure to marry, form a family, buy a house, save money or invest for retirement. "At long last, I had found myself vulnerable to the worst of New York City, because at 44 my life was not so different from the way it was at 24," she wrote.[17] The article provoked a number of criticisms. In Slate, Amanda Marcotte called the piece Wurtzel's "latest word dump" and remarked that it was "as lengthy as it is incoherent."[32] Writing in The New Republic, Noreen Malone said of the piece that "Wurtzel wants us to know that she's a mess, and kindly invites us to rubberneck."[33] Prachi Gupta in Salon.com characterized the essay as "rambling" and "self-involved." [34] The essay, wrote Tracie Egan Morrissey in Jezebel.com, "reads like a transcript of an eloquent coke rant or a Robin Williams free-association jag" and, like Wurtzel's life, "doesn't seem to have much of a purpose."[35] In The New Yorker, Meghan Daum called the piece "self-aggrandizing, disjointed, and, in its most egregious moments, leaves the impression that her editors might have been egging her on—or worse, taking advantage of what sometimes looks like a fairly precarious psychological state—in order to ensure maximum blogospheric outrage."[36]

In January 2015 Wurtzel published a short book entitled Creatocracy under Thought Catalog's publishing imprint, TC Books. It is based on the thesis she wrote about intellectual property law upon graduation from Yale Law school.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Wurtzel met photo editor and aspiring novelist James Freed Jr. in October 2013 at an addiction-themed reading.[38] She announced their engagement in September 2014.[39] She married Freed in May 2015.[40]

In February 2015, Wurtzel announced she had breast cancer, "which like many things that happen to women is mostly a pain in the ass. But compared with being 26 and crazy and waiting for some guy to call, it's not so bad. If I can handle 39 breakups in 21 days, I can get through cancer." She said of her double mastectomy and reconstruction, "It is quite amazing. They do both at the same time. You go in with breast cancer and come out with stripper boobs."[41]


  • Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir (1994)
  • Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women (1998)
  • More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction (2001)
  • The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women (2004) (previously published as Radical Sanity and The Bitch Rules)
  • Creatocracy: How the Constitution Invented Hollywood (2015)


  1. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas (October 28, 2007). "Coming Soon: 'Law School Nation'?". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  2. ^ Walden, Celia. "Elizabeth Wurtzel: 'Getting married for the first time at 47 is my real mistake'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  3. ^ https://www.thecut.com/2018/12/elizabeth-wurtzel-on-discovering-the-truth-about-her-parents.html
  4. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/21/classified/paid-notice-deaths-zicht-rhoda.html
  5. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/style/elizabeth-wurtzel-finds-someone-to-love-her.html
  6. ^ "Elizabeth Wurtzel on Discovering the Truth About Her Parents". The Cut. December 24, 2018. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "From Prozac Nation to Yale Law School? Elizabeth Wurtzel's Unlikely Journey". ABC News. March 22, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  8. ^ "The Liars' Club: An Incomplete History of Untruths and Consequences". New York Observer. March 6, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Wurtzel (author of Prozac Nation)". Goodreads.com. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  10. ^ "For Better or for Wurtzel, Author and Lawyer Elizabeth Sanguine About Failing the Bar Exam". New York Observer. November 18, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  11. ^ Tucker, Ken (September 25, 1994). "Rambunctious With Tears". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  12. ^ Garner, Dwight. "Tina's Time". Salon. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  13. ^ "Hypericum Buyers Club". HBC protocols.com. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  14. ^ Lermahn, Karen (April 19, 1998). "I Am Woman, Hear Me Whine". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  15. ^ Kurth, Peter. ""More, Now, Again" by Elizabeth Wurtzel". Salon. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  16. ^ Young, Toby (March 3, 2002). "Elizabeth Wurtzel went shopping..." The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Wurtzel, Elizabeth (January 6, 2013). "Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One-Night Stand of a Life". New York.
  18. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas (October 28, 2007). "Coming Soon: 'Law School Nation'?". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  19. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Fp5JvG2I8
  20. ^ "Elizabeth Wurtzel: Can She Call Herself a 'Lawyer' Without Having Passed the Bar?". Abovethelaw.com. July 27, 2009. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  21. ^ "Passing February 2010 (W-Z)". The New York State Board of Law Examiners. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  22. ^ "Elizabeth Wurtzel Bids Bye-Bye to Boies Schiller". Abovethelaw.com. August 6, 2012. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  23. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-13/the-author-of-prozac-nation-hasn-t-stopped-working-for-superlawyer-david-boies
  24. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (July 1, 2010). "Testing, Testing… What Exactly Does the Bar Exam Test". Brennan Law Center. Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  25. ^ Wadler, Joyce (January 17, 2002). "Public Lives: 'Depression Princess' Tells About Life of Addiction". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  26. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (April 9, 2009). "Twelve Years Down the Drain". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  27. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (September 21, 2008). "Beyond the Trouble, More Trouble: Depression in the best of us". New York.
  28. ^ https://gawker.com/5053604/on-knowing-elizabeth-wurtzel-screwed-david-foster-wallace
  29. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (January 16, 2009). "Standing against a tide of hatred". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  30. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (May 5, 2009). "Failure to Launch: When Beauty Fades". Elle. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  31. ^ Flood, Alison (September 27, 2012). "Penguin sues authors over 'failing to deliver books'". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  32. ^ Marcotte, Amanda (January 7, 2013). "Elizabeth Wurtzel Writes About Herself Again. Memoir Finally Hits Bottom". Slate. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  33. ^ Malone, Noreen (January 7, 2013). "Elizabeth Wurtzel Doesn't Reveal Enough About Herself (No, Really!)". The New Republic. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  34. ^ Gupta, Prachi (August 8, 2013). "Elizabeth Wurtzel is writing another confessional memoir". Salon. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  35. ^ Morrissey, Tracie Egan. "Elizabeth Wurtzel at 45: Sadder Than Depression". jezebel.com. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  36. ^ "What Would Hannah Horvath Make of Elizabeth Wurtzel?". The New Yorker. 11 January 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  37. ^ "Chris Lavergne and Mink Choi reflect on Thought Catalog books" (PDF). thought.is.
  38. ^ https://www.theawl.com/2013/10/whats-wrong-with-addiction-literature/
  39. ^ Wurtzel, Elizabeth (20 September 2014). "Elizabeth Wurtzel: Why I Will Be Wed". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  40. ^ "Elizabeth Wurtzel Finds Someone to Love Her". The New York Times. May 31, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  41. ^ "And Now This: Author Elizabeth Wurtzel Reckons with Breast Cancer". Vice. February 5, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2017.

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