- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Anchor (May 18 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385484011
- ISBN-13: 978-0385484015
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: 75 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #397,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women Paperback – May 18 1999
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Elizabeth Wurtzel, an ex-rock critic for The New Yorker, won controversial fame with her bestselling 1994 memoir Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, which described how Prozac saved the precocious Harvard grad from suicide. Her second book, Bitch is a celebration of the defiant, rock-and-roll spirit of self-destructive women through the ages: Delilah, Amy Fisher, Princess Di, and hundreds more (including the awesomely reckless Wurtzel). There is no comprehensible central line of argument, perhaps because the author did her exhaustive research and writing on a speedy Kerouacesque drug binge that, by her own admission, sent her to rehab upon the book's conclusion. But Wurtzel has the remains of a fine mind: her insights are often sharp, sometimes bitchy, and always shameless as she zooms in a very few pages from The Oresteia to O.J. to her first crush on a fictional character Heathcliff) to Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, Richard Pryor, Chrissie Hynde, Leaving Las Vegas, Gone with the Wind, Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," Schindler's List, Oliver! Carousel, and Andrea Dworkin. Most pop culture pundits incline to grandiose blather, but Wurtzel is punchy, and her quotes are more often apt than pretentious. Bitch is like a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in a library, with frequent rampages through the film and music archives. Like rock music, Wurtzel's prose style lives for the moment. She glories in breaking rules to bits, is never giddier than when she's saying something shocking, and apparently has no moral code except self-expression--with the attitude volume knob cranked up to 11. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
There is little praise for women in Wurtzel's hyperbolic rant about "bad girls" and their relationship to Western society. Indeed, hip turns of phrase frequently replace logic in this often smug and overwritten screed. In her defense, Wurtzel (Prozac Nation, LJ 8/94) has taken on a huge project, and every now and again she introduces a startling insight about how women manipulate situations to control their lives. Her look at the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah is particularly instructive in elucidating the history of our reaction to the alluringly repulsive femme fatale. Likewise, her presentation of both mythic and real women who flaunt their "pussy power" makes for provocative reading. Nonetheless, nearly a quarter of the book focuses on Nicole Brown Simpson (who few would call a "difficult woman") and is shockingly mean-spirited. While she lambastes the Simpson jury as "just plain stupid," we never learn how she knows what the jury did not: that O.J. killed Nicole. Since she was not in the courtroom, her cavalier dismissal of the verdict rankles and casts doubt on her other arguments. Worse, she seems to believe that violence is endemic to being "crazy in love," and her writing romanticizes the black eye and slapped cheek as proof of passionate involvement. In addition, Wurtzel completely ignores lesbians?an odd omission since the expression of Sapphic love represents a blatant rejection of "good girl" norms?and dismisses the happily single, writing that "it would be easier to eliminate racism or end poverty or cure illiteracy or dethrone Fidel Castro than it would to make girls stop wanting to be brides." Recommended only as catalyst for debate.
-?Eleanor J. Bader, New School for Social Research, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Unfortunately, Wurtzel has once again set us back, again to the '80s, where women are allowed to be independent as long as they suffer the consequences of failed love relationships, success based only on their looks, and empty rebellion for the sake of rebellion.
Wurtzel, using a handful of notororious examples including herself, argues that there is something inherent about women that makes them self-destructive, usually in the name of a man.
Furthermore, Wurtzel seems to lack adequate knowledge about the psychology of women, using Carol Gilligan, a little respected '70s "feminist" psychologist, as her only scholarly-based evidence on the problems faced by adolescent girls. Instead of discussing empirically-based findings on the social problems that still plague women today, she resorts to personality and psychodynamic based explanations about why there are so many women who are screwed up.
It seems that she's been to too many unhelpful therapy sessions and has now used herself as a basis of generalizing to an entire generation of women...unfair and just as bad as prevailing traditional stereotypes about good, little women.
In her long, rambling introduction, Wurtzel lays out her basic premise, to wit, that the beautiful "bitch" is a vital feminine role model, an essential expression of feminist rage. Though she admits that extreme examples of the Beautiful Bitch (BB) invariably end up as tragic "sex kittens in the slammer," or dead, she believes that ideal BB's are "fabulous women of great mischief," who are excitingly, wickedly dangerous, due to using their beauty shamelessly to enslave men. As such, Delilah from the Bible is Wurtzel's primary BB archetype and rates one of the five sections of the book. The other four sections discuss Amy Fisher, Courtney Love, Hillary Clinton and Nicole Brown Simpson.
If you enjoy the sharp, intellectual, stylized writing of New York journalists amped up to a speed-induced extreme, you may greatly enjoy this book for that feature alone. If, on the other hand (as in my case), you find smug, self-satisfied, flashily egocentric voices like Wurtzel's both irritating in their own right and counterproductively overwhelming of the subject matter at hand, Wurtzel's writerly style will not be a plus for you.
If, in addition, you don't demand much in terms of substance of opinion pieces, and "witty" cleverness alone is satisfactory for you, you may also enjoy this book on that count. However, if you do appreciate a bit of weight in these sorts of essays, you are out of luck here. (...), all I could ultimately locate as her "point" was the Madison Avenue cliché, "If you've got it, flaunt it." (...), since many autobiographical remarks scattered throughout the book indicate she clearly sees herself as the ultimate BB, a sort of tragic female Byron. Tragic because, though every BB has power, for a while, inevitably, if she isn't killed outright, age steals her beauty, her one source of power. And it is fear of this loss, perhaps, that drives Wurtzel to wonder, in passing, if someday, when she's through doing all the "things" she "has to do," she won't have to fall back on the good girl's dream, building a home and a family. (And, God help her future husband and kids if she does!)
Having said all that, I have to admit that there is one redeeming aspect of Bitch--the author's extensive bibliography. Though she may not have much to say worth listening to herself, I have to admit, Wurtzel's read a lot of interesting books.
*that the book did not follow any sort of train of thought. Even though it was broken up into five or six essays, she would go from one person to the next so quickly, you don't even know she was talking about a different person. I skipped most of the stuff on Delilah, the character showed up on occasion throughout 2-3 of the essays, and sometimes stayed for pages. I wasn't interested in it, and the author probably should have just written a whole essay on her. Apparently, this book was written on some kind of speed, which makes sense, but couldn't it have been cut down a little? Or, at least, molded into something readable? Maybe its supposed to fit with the running theme: "Bad girls: young, beautiful, and on drugs." Which leads me to the next thought...
*What is her obsession with beauty? It seems like every woman she mentions is somehow tragically beautiful.. and these are the women who are bi#$%#s, the "difficult" women... how she says: "I am still pretty. I still have time to work out my marital status." <---What is that about? As if the only people who are married are good looking? Since when is marriage about "looks" anyway? or she also says.."even worse, it seems inevitable that there will come a time when I won't look good, when men will stop flirting with me, when this freedom sh#$ will start to feel more like free-falling. Will I know? Will I become pathetic?" No, you will just have to win people over by personality for a change! I just don't understand the superficial attitude for someone who is supposed to be a feminist. I have known women who are not great beauties, but everywhere they go, men fall in love with them. Once again, love is not about outside beauty. Unless, she is worried that at 50, she won't be able to have lots of one night stands, and men falling at her feet. This is probably true.
*Her opinions didn't even follow anything concrete. It seemed that at one moment she believed wholeheartedly in something, and then turned around and said.. oh wait, i forgot about that. nevermind, i believe this instead. Unfortunately, i can't come up with an example, because I would have to plow through this monstrous book for it. At least, she broke it into paragraphs.
What I did like about the book:
* the way she uses examples of movies, books, stories, and songs in her essays. Most of the movies are familiar to me, Fatal Attraction, Foxfire... then she mentions others that maybe some people wouldn't know, but should watch.. like Welcome to the Dollhouse or if Lucy fell. Many books that I own, have references or what the author has as a bibliography... My favorite author SARK recommends books on every chapter, sometimes music or web pages. It's just like a chain where you are exposed to things you would never have been before you read this book. Unfortunately, in Wurtzel's bibliography, i think she fails to mention the movies.
* I liked the essay, "Used to love her but I had to kill her." This touches on a lot of things having do to with O.J., and his late ex-wife Nicole. I never really followed the trial, but I do agree with the author, that he did it. It's funny too, because she doesn't use the word "allegedly" anywhere in the chapter. It's written like: when he killed her.... or he probably killed her because. It's as if she believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that he committed the crime, and she is not going to believe otherwise no matter what you say...
*which leads into this: the honesty of the book gets me. I would be afraid to let go of myself too much into a book. She has very strong opinions. Not only that, but she talks about her life, how she feels about herself, what she has done. One of my favorite paragraphs is where she talks about how she is not married and why she is not.. the reason is because there are things she "needed to do." the start of this paragraph is... "I needed to spend a week in Florence by myself, to check into the Excelsior Hotel and eat breakfast and dinner in bed with a view of the Arno, watching soccer on Italian television and be amazingly bored, I needed to walk the streets of this most romantic and recherche of cities all alone..." I loved that. It goes on for about two pages but I didn't mind. You get a peek into her life and all of the adventures she has had. For me, I yearned for those experiences to be mine. I want to go back to Europe, this time all by myself, and see things I didn't get to see the first time because I was going to pubs and hanging out with friends.
To sum up, it is a whale of a book, but if you have the patience to go through it, you should. She is very intelligent and has a lot of insight on things that I had never thought to analyze. If it is confusing or boring, skip it. That's what I did. There are just little gems scattered throughout. You just have to look for them sometimes.
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De ol' devilchef gives dis tome a 5 mojo*z review!!!