Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Okay, so I’ve been having some fun making new header images for this here webpage. What bought this on was that I was particularly annoyed and so I thought I’d get out my big box of Crayons and use every color. From there I happened upon the idea of making a header to represent each one of my books, which has turned out to illustrate my point all the more clearly. It doesn’t matter what color I use or what genre something is, I’m a writer. And that’s that. I took my annoyance and made some art. Use your muses. Making lemonade.

I ordered a copy of the book “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women” by Elizabeth Wurtzel, just a random, secondhand, copy. As luck would have it, I got sent an autographed one. It was kind of eerie to open up the book and see it signed, so soon after her passing. I’ve been reading it. Elizabeth Wurtzel was a well-educated, quick-witted, woman. I’m having a hard time with the book here and there though and I’ll let you in on why. The first reason is that this thing is entrenched, soaked, in popular culture and such references, and oh, have I ever been there. Anyone keeping up with my own ramblings on this webpage can attest to that. But, I’m wanting to be getting away from that in some ways right now, so, it’s kind of tough to absorb more of it. At the same time, the fact that this book is so steeped in popular culture has further impressed upon me what happens to works that are not timeless, after a while they become a product of their time, and as such, dated. That doesn’t mean that this book of hers isn’t still relevant, it just means that you’ve got to really know your way around the landscape of American popular culture at the time the book was written to get some of what she references and is talking about. Elizabeth Wurtzel was about sixteen months older than me, a Gen Xer, so I’m right there with the movies, books, etc., and such that she’s talking about, but even at that, objectively, it puts this book very much of the time it was written and published, the late 1990s. Wurtzel’s prose is expansive, rambling, and nonetheless, elegant. She covers a lot of ground, but always brings it back around to her point. It reads wired and like you’re getting everything she knows on the subject, it reads like a hot mess of a mix between objective thinking and impassioned opinion. As mired as it is in cultural references, I’m digging it.

Here’s the other thing though, what I’m realizing as I’m reading this book as she talks about these female historical figures, these so-called “difficult women,” is how screwed up our thinking is about all these things and always has been and yes, that’s her point- and she goes all the way back to Sampson and Delilah with this stuff- but it’s that it just keeps perpetuating. Wurtzel is dissecting the culture that still has millions enamored with Marilyn Monroe, the culture that created her (Monroe) and so-called icons like her in the first place, and I’m reading this at a moment in my own life and experience when I no longer give a damn about such things in terms of “these are the ideas society has given us about being female.” And that’s the realization too, is that from the cradle to the grave there’s this constant idea being given to us from others about how we should be women. While this book obviously deals with the topic of being female, society, culture, does the same thing to men, in different ways, about different things. Not only that, historically, society is woefully inconsistent about some things, ever-changing, and not always for the better. And as tired of it all as Wurtzel was, to write this book at the close of her twenties, I am at the beginning of my fifties. But I’m seeing it differently because I’m getting free of it. I feel like I spent decades at the metaphorical party trying to figure it out when all I really needed to figure out was where the door was.

In my opinion, we need to learn to let ourselves be, to love and accept ourselves, and we need to learn to let others do likewise. My personal attitude at this point is if you lived away from all the constant “stuff” society comes up with, how would you be, what would you do, and I’m trying to be about that. Wurtzel’s vocabulary was truly stunning and a wonder, for me it’s worth reading for that alone. She offers some brilliant insight into some things. Elizabeth Wurtzel was a really good writer, brilliant. So, I’m going to keep reading it, I feel like I’ll be smarter for it when I’ve finished it, and that it will strengthen my own resolve with regard to ideas of transcending pop-culture and societal whatevers, ideas about managing to be present in this time, will also being able to create some timeless work. If there is anything else to report about this “Bitch” book, I shall let you know.

I think the next post I write will just be a couple of quick examples of the differences between work that is timeless and work that is forever moored to the moment of its creation.

TS