“Prozac Nation” Author Elizabeth Wurtzel Dies at Age 52

The author announced her battle with breast cancer in 2015

Elizabeth Wurtzel Death
Wurtzel in 2000.
Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images
By Carl Caminetti / January 7, 2020 11:59 am

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the 1994 memoir Prozac Nation, has died at age 52, the Washington Post reported. Wurtzel died at a Manhattan hospital on Tuesday. The immediate cause of death was complications from leptomeningeal disease related to her battle with breast cancer.

Born in New York in 1967, Wurtzel became a Gen X icon with the publication of Prozac Nation at the age of 26. The memoir, in which Wurtzel chronicled her experience with depression and addiction, sparked a trend in confessional writing, and was turned into a feature film starring Christina Ricci in 2001.

Prozac Nation, which remains Wurtzel’s best-known work, was followed by the essay collection Bitch in 1998 and a second memoir, More, Now, Again, in 2002. Wurtzel’s deeply personal writing and frank descriptions of mental illness and addiction drew comparisons to the work of Sylvia Plath, William Styron, and Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted.

“By turns 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 ‘Bell Jar’ and the wry, dark humor of a Bob Dylan song,” wrote Michiko Kakutani for the New York Times.

In 2015, Wurtzel announced she had breast cancer, which she said was “nothing” compared to giving up drugs. “So I have breast cancer, which like many things that happen to women is mostly a pain in the ass,” Wurtzel wrote for Vice. “But compared with being 26 and crazy and waiting for some guy to call, it’s not so bad.”

Despite undergoing a double mastectomy, the cancer metastasized to her brain. Wurtzel’s death was the result of complications from leptomeningeal disease, which occurs when cancer spreads to the cerebrospinal fluid.

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