BITCH by Elizabeth Wurtzel

BITCH

In Praise of Difficult Women
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The epithet —bitch— has no male equivalent, and Wurtzel explains this inequity in a series of overgrown essays that swings from insightful to banal. At its best, Wurtzel’s discursive style is akin to soapbox oratory. Studying women throughout history, from Delilah to Zelda Fitzgerald, who have gained influence by using their sexuality to manipulate men and events, Wurtzel points out that this path has often been —the only option— for women seeking —to be both powerful and sexy.— But a woman who uses sex appeal to gain power is also likely to be dismissed, vilified, or, at the very least, labeled dangerous or difficult. But while there’s some thoughtful analysis, a lot of entertaining information, and a good deal of clever writing, the book digresses too often from its central notion to persuade any but the already converted that the world can’t handle difficult women. Indeed, it appears that what has proven most difficult for bitches has been handling their own power. Wurtzel identifies with their difficult choices and suffering and helps us empathize, yet her attitude toward the women she chooses to study often seems ambivalent. Expositions on desire, anger, sex, and madness figure throughout this serpentine analysis. Mostly her message gets bogged down in a tangle of bitching. As in her previous work, Prozac Nation (1994), Wurtzel generalizes from her own experience. To rephrase a Muriel Rukeyser poem she cites, the world would not split open if one woman told the truth about her life. “It would more likely derogate such ‘truth’ by reducing it to no more than a silly girl’s excessive emotionalism,” Wurtzel writes, taking a preemptive strike at her detractors. At its worst, the book becomes an extended defense of Wurtzel’s own recalcitrant “bad” behavior. Wurtzel’s talent for provocative prose and sexy subjects perfectly lends itself to a screed on female power that is refreshing and irritating by turns. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48400-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998




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