Thursday, September 14, 2006

Elizabeth Wurtzel: Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation was at one point hailed as Generation X's The Bell Jar.This is plausable because a.) it chronicles a young depressed woman's experiences and b.) said account is updated with many, many references to pop culture. It's a narrative of pain, but it's also ironic and self-aware. Although Wurtzel does a good job or conveying the emptiness and confusion of depression, any pity I felt was marred by the "I'm so awesome" list of her accomplishments. Private school, scholorship, Harvard, accolades for her writing, numerous trips... I understand that Wurtzel is demonstrating that attaining the success our culture covets doesn't equate happiness, but the shouts of "look how fabulous I am" are distracting and, ultimately, detracting.

The title really doesn't have anything to do with the subject matter. The book smacks of a vanity project more than anything else. If the author hadn't achieved so much while young, I'm guessing this book would not have been published. All in all, Prozac Nation is most effective as a lurid tell-all. It almost feels escapist, except it's not uplifting. It's an enjoyable read in a morbid, voyeuristic way. I could identify with some of what Wurtzel is saying, and I hope that she was able to find some healthy way of getting the attention she so desperately needed (needs?). It's difficult being young and gifted, especially if one of those talents is alienating everyone around you.

Incidentally, we haven't heard too much from Wurtzel lately, but Wikipedia tells me she's attending law school at Yale. Rock 'n' roll.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kate Chynoweth: The Risks of Sunbathing Topless: And Other Funny Stories from the Road

It's been a year since I've taken a trip to anywhere that's not Pennsylvania (except for a 2-day stint in Chicago's suburbs), and it's been twice that since I've been out of the country. It's understandable, then, that I've been thinking of travel in idealistic terms. I forget about incidents past, such as having my face jumped on in Denmark and running out of gas in the middle of nowhere in the good old U.S.A. Come to think of it, why do I want to leave my apartment after reading all this? Because the mishaps make travel stories worth telling, as The Risks of Sunbathing Topless so eloquently proves.

Kate Chynoweth has assembled a collection of travel nightmares from the pens of some seriously funny women. You'll laugh, you'll gasp, and you'll be really glad you didn't have to experience what the authors went through (although you'll be very glad they did and returned to tell the tale). Pick this up and read it! I wouldn't recommend reading it during a trip or just before one, though. You might jinx yourself. Although... said jinxing could give you a fabulous travel nightmare of your very own to share!