email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
100 Things Guys Need to Know1001 Solution-Focused Questions101 Ways to Meditate17 Lies That Are Holding You Back29 Gifts8 Keys to Stress ManagementA Layman's Guide to Managing FearA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeAddiction and ChangeAddiction Recovery ToolsADHD Grown UpAdolescent DepressionAdvanced Sexual TechniquesAfter SuicideAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAnswers for AristotleAnxiety, Phobias, and PanicAre You Fully Charged?Authentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBe Honest--You're Not That Into Him EitherBeating the BluesBecoming OrgasmicBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Better Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBeyond AddictionBibliotherapyBinge No MoreBipolar DisorderBlinkBoomers Really Can Put Old On HoldBrain LongevityBrainstormBread Upon the WatersBreak Through PainBreathingBringing Up ParentsBuddhist Boot CampBullyBut I Love HimCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyCan't Eat, Won't EatCancer on $5 a Day* *(chemo not included)Caring in Remembered WaysChained to the DeskChange Your AgeChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeChange Your ThinkingChildren of the Aging Self-AbsorbedChildren of the Self-AbsorbedConceptual BlockbustingConquer Your Critical Inner VoiceConquering Postpartum DepressionConquering Shame and CodependencyCoping With Difficult PeopleCoping with Infuriating, Mean, Critical PeopleCoping With TraumaCreative Writing In Health And Social CareCrossing the Unknown SeaDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDaydreamingDe-Stress Your Life in 7 Easy StepsDealing with a NarcissistDefying DementiaDelivered from DistractionDematerializingDepression FalloutDepression-Free for LifeDivorce PoisonDoing ItDone With The CryingDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Weisinger's Anger Work-Out BookDying to Be ThinEasy YogaEmbarrassing Medical ProblemsEmbracing UncertaintyEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotional ClaustrophobiaEmotional Fitness for IntimacyEmotional IntelligenceEnjoying Guilty PleasuresEssays on Philosophical CounselingEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensExercise for Mood and AnxietyFailureFamily Desk Reference to Psychology Family FirstFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFatal FlawsFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFeeding Your ChildFinding Meaning in the Second Half of LifeFlow: The Psychology of Optimal ExperienceFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFlying ColorsForgive Your Parents, Heal YourselfFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFrom Sabotage to SuccessFull Steam Ahead!Getting a Good Night's SleepGetting ControlGetting over Getting MadGetting the Love You WantGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGetting Your Life BackGirl StuffGirlWiseGod Never BlinksGoddess WorshipGoing DownGoing Home without Going CrazyGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsGrieving Mental IllnessGuilt, Shame, and AnxietyHalf Empty, Half FullHe's Just Not That Into YouHeal & Forgive IIHealing ADDHealing through ExerciseHealthy AgingHonoring GriefHooking UpHot ButtonsHow Full Is Your Bucket?How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow Philosophy Can Save Your LifeHow Proust Can Change Your LifeHow Successful People ThinkHow to Change Someone You LoveHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Handle a Hard-To-Handle KidHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHow to Live Well Without Owning a CarHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Stay SaneHow to Stop Feeling Like ShitHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI AMI am PotentialI Saw It HappenI Wasn't Ready to Say GoodbyeI'd Rather LaughI'm OK, You're My ParentsIllness and the Art of Creative Self-ExpressionIn the Mood, AgainIntroduction to Qi YogaIt's Called a Breakup Because It's BrokenIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsJudo with WordsKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDLearn to RelaxLearned OptimismLearning Outside the Lines Letting Go of AngerLies! Lies! Lies!Life MakeoversLife StrategiesLife's WorkLifting DepressionLiving the TruthLiving Well with Pain and IllnessLiving with AnxietyLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLost in the MirrorLove & SurvivalLove Your Body, Love Your LifeLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It CountMaking a Good Brain GreatMaking ADD WorkMaking Your Mind MatterManaging Your MindManic DepressionMastering Anger and AggressionMastering the Power of Self-hypnosisMaui PilatesMeditation for Optimum HealthMeditation in a New York MinuteMind MappingMind-Body Workbook for AnxietyMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for Urban Depression: Tools for Relief from Stressful City LivingModerate DrinkingMotherstylesMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNapkin NotesNatural Healing for DepressionNew Hope for People with DepressionNo Enemies WithinNo More AnxietyNot Your Mother's LifeObsessive-Compulsive Disorder DemystifiedOne Last Hug Before I GoOrgasmOrgasmsOutsmarting DepressionOutsmarting OvereatingOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOvercoming Compulsive CheckingOvercoming Compulsive HoardingOvercoming DepressionOvercoming Obsessive ThoughtsOvercoming the Fear of FearOvercoming Your Difficult FamilyPain Free for LifePain Free for WomenParanoia of Everyday LifeParenting Children With ADHDPassionate VegetarianPlan BPlanning for UncertaintyPlato, Not Prozac!Position Of The Day PlaybookPositivityPotatoes Not ProzacPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPowerfully Recovered!PredatorsPreventing Misbehavior in ChildrenProcrastinationProcrastinationProtecting the GiftPsychology Moment by MomentQiGong IllustratedQuantum Memory PowerRaising a Self-StarterRaising Kids in an Age of TerrorRaising Resilient ChildrenReady for AnythingReal Solutions for Overcoming Internet AddictionsRecovery from AddictionRelationship RescueRespect-Me RulesRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRomantic IntelligenceSabbathSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSelf MattersSelf-CoachingSelf-CompassionSelf-Help NationSelf-Help Stuff That WorksSelf-Help Without the HypeSelf-NurtureSeven Life Lessons from Noah's ArkSex and SpiritSex DetoxSex PositionsSex Q & ASextasySexual PleasureSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoulmatesSpiritually Healing the Indigo Children (and Adult Indigos, Too!)Spontaneous HealingStanding at Water's EdgeStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStaying Sane When Your Family Comes to VisitStop Arguing with Your KidsStop Caretaking the Borderline or NarcissistStop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself Stop OverreactingStop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco for Life ChangesStop Walking on EggshellsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStress ReliefStrong, Smart, & BoldSun SalutationsSunbathing in the RainSurviving a Borderline ParentSurviving Manic DepressionSurviving Sexual ViolenceTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaking Charge of AngerTaking Charge of Anger: Six Steps to Asserting Yourself without Losing ControlTaming Your Inner BratTeen Angst? NaaahTen Minutes to RelaxThank You for Being Such a PainThe 10 Best Anxiety BustersThe 5 Reasons Why We OvereatThe 7 Secrets of the ProlificThe Anger WorkbookThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe Art of Becoming HumanThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Breakout PrincipleThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Chronic Pain SolutionThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Consolations of PhilosophyThe Core Question: Who Am I?The Crowdsourced Performance ReviewThe Emotional Eater's Repair ManualThe Emotional RevolutionThe End-of-Life HandbookThe Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005The Essential KamasutraThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Game of TruthThe Gift of FearThe Gift of ShynessThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Happy Hook-UpThe Healing JourneyThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Healing Journey Through GriefThe Healing Power of PetsThe Identity CodeThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Intuitive WriterThe Irritable Male SyndromeThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever NeedThe Light of DiscoveryThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Yoga BookThe Magic of Thinking BigThe Making of Dr. PhilThe Male Stress Survival GuideThe Money WorkbookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Self-EsteemThe New Cancer SurvivorsThe New Rational TherapyThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe OCD WorkbookThe Passion PlanThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Pill Book Guide to Natural MedicinesThe Places That Scare YouThe Pocket Life CoachThe Porn TrapThe Power of FocusThe Power of Full EngagementThe Power of Negative ThinkingThe Power of PlayThe Power of Self-CoachingThe Pursuit of PerfectThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Secret of LifeThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Self ImprovedThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Self-Help SourcebookThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Stress CureThe Stress Less WorkbookThe Stress Owner's ManualThe Stress Reduction Workbook for TeensThe SuperStress SolutionThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Therapy for the SaneThe Truth About Chronic PainThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Van Gogh BluesThe Way of StretchingThe Way of the JournalThe Way of TransitionThe Weblog HandbookThe Why CaféThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival HandbookThere's a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemThings Might Go Terribly, Horribly WrongThink Confident, Be ConfidentThink NakedThink SmartThinking for a ChangeThis Is HowTotal PilatesTrain Your Brain to Get HappyTrain Your Brain to Get RichTransformation Trauma in the Lives of ChildrenUltimate SexUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUndoing DepressionUnhappy TeenagersUnlock the Genius WithinUntangling the WebVirtual AddictionWaking Up to What You DoWay to Be!What We Say MattersWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Holding You Back? When a Family Member Has DementiaWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen in Doubt, Make BeliefWhen Perfect Isn't Good EnoughWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhen Things Fall ApartWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhen Your Body Gets the BluesWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWherever You Go, There You AreWhy Can't I Change?Why Is It Always About You?Why Smart Executives FailWorried All the TimeWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting as a Sacred PathWriting in FlowWriting to HealYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!Yoga 4 TeensYoga as MedicineYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular Guys DVDYoga for the Young at HeartYoga on DemandYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYou Are Not AloneYou Are Not Your IllnessYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Speaks Your MindYour Brain on FoodYour Child, Bully or Victim?Zen Sex
This is a good and useful little
book for young women, especially those who are confused about life and hurting
from its disappointments. It comes from an established author, a woman who is,
first and foremost, an expressive writer, a talented artist with words and word
pictures. She is a writer with a recognized voice, one that younger women can
hear as compatible with their own. It is this author's singular voice which is
the book's strength and its gift to readers; it is this voice that explains why
Random House (who own Ballantine Books) continue to publish this worthwhile,
Elizabeth Wurtzel's voice calls out
from the Shadow side of the American experience: her humor, cynicism, hopeless
selfishness, despair, longing, and drug-lust were fueled and lubed by the
established life of our culture, and "bent out of shape" as Dylan
would say, "by society's pliers." Where the culture has taught and
demanded of women their obedience and unexamined fealty, the culture's Shadow consequently
projects the spectrum of craziness and rebel self-abuse like what Wurtzel lived.
She salvaged a career for herself when she wrote about it all in Prozac
Nation, the book that won her notoriety worldwide, and in Bitch,
more recent and more of the same.
We know her voice best from Prozac
Nation: "…Pain or no, I would most likely walk around in a suicidal
reverie the rest of my life, never actually doing anything about it. Was there
a psychological term for that? Was there a disease that involved an intense
desire to die, but no will to go through with it?" (p. 127) It's a voice
never far from persistent pain or pointless self-recrimination hidden by
intelligence and humor.
This voice speaks throughout The
Secret of Life too but has begun to mature, as in, "…Don't even think
of getting married until you are quite certain that you've outgrown your little
girl days of being a whiny, needy pain in the ass… And remember…the women's
movement…happened because women wanted and needed time to come into their own
alone. Even with all the miserable stuff you will have to put up with as a
single woman--the heartaches and bad jobs…it is worth the adventure…" (p.
120) Plainly, The Secret of Life is something different. It shows not
just that she has survived her drug-laced, depressed past, but that she has
learned something along the way and, at least in her longing and aspiration,
has matured enough to write answers to the questions young women ask as they
mount the roads Wurtzel traveled earlier. Her "commonsense advice," promised
in the book's subtitle, surely represents the hard-earned maturation of the
beautiful woman shown on the book's cover--Elizabeth herself, still in jeans and
tee shirt, braless, blond, and looking readers dead in the eye as if saying, "See,
I'm still here."
That cover photo may be a story in
itself since this is the same book previously released as Radical Sanity,
somewhat stillborn and lacking a photo of the author on the cover--doubtless a
major error by her publishers. One need only look back to the waif on the cover
of Prozac Nation, to get the idea. Elizabeth's right arm reaches over
and cradles her long, dark locks; the subtitle words trace the line of her arm
and hair, calling attention to them in white letters lamenting, "young and
depressed in America." We see that, behind some graphic barbed-wire, she's
incredibly young and rather beautiful in a seductive, even suggestive way; she
looks lost, and invites inquiry. The book was a best-seller and may have been a
literary tour de force, announcing that voice from America's dark
corners where kids are lost in an endless pharmacy run only for profit.
Other books followed that fired
some interest, and much disappointment, based on the promise and singular
success of Prozac Nation. But the cover, at least, of one of
those books, Bitch, did not disappoint; rather, it took the publisher's
pitch a step further with Wurtzel showing enticing nudity commingled with an
up-yours middle finger, an effective graphic portrayal of her conflicted
message. So, there is some resulting controversy as to how much of this writer's
career is linked to her ability as a writer, versus how much is sexy (or even
sexist) marketing. Certainly these questions circulate with the kind of
feminism Wurtzel says she embodies and strives to advance.
The reason that "Don't judge a
book by its cover" is such a good adage is that people do. And sex
sells books. No question. Wurtzel uses sex to sell her prose too (see the
chapter, "The Accidental Blowjob" in Prozac Nation). Sex
simmers in The Secret of Life, but it's hushed, in the background,
probably because she knows she's talking to her peers. What she says about sex
aims to help them survive it and get what they want from it.
Mostly, The Secret…turns out
to be a list of positive choices women can make that turn their lives from
existential rebellion to the satisfaction that comes when they can "settle
down" (pp. 124-136). This same list from someone's mother would only
elicit annoyance; it's Elizabeth's unique voice that rescues it and puts it
For example, she writes (p. 48) "Learn
to love things other than boys." Well…duh. It's a list; it's pretty
long. It could be called banal: have faith, don't trust Newt Gingrich, trust
me, get a cleaning lady, curious people are not always happy, eat dessert, only
clear the table if men do, wear a little make-up, etc. I'm not making this
stuff up. What saves this work is the truth that her readers know: she
who learned it paid for it with her pain; her survival is proof enough that
these little lessons matter.
Yet, an existential questioning may
well haunt some of us. How did it become necessary in America that such
insight--and from one so troubled as Elizabeth--should constitute advice? When
did the cultural norm degenerate to such a low point that home-brew had become
rare Champagne? When were the doors blown off our lumbering, old-Ford culture by
a passing, drug-crazed, depressed guru on a hot Harley?
Are those even fruitful questions?
Maybe it doesn't matter when or how the change occurred; what matters is here
we are. Dr. Spock is dead and gone, and society's new Physician is Dr.
Pharmacopoeia. He rules the Congress, the press, the media, the people. Only
the small, sad voices of his most talented patients, like dear self-obsessed
and despairing Elizabeth Wurtzel, can with their artistry warn us all before
the punishments become universal.
© 2005 David Wolf
David M. Wolf
is the author of Philosophy That Works, a book about the practice of
philosophy. His book page for orders (hardback & paperback) is www.xlibris.com/philosophythatworks
; readers can also see the first chapter there.