Who can resist coping tips from the thin-skinned authoress of Prozac Nation? It might seem strange that the confessed Ritalin addict and Olympic-caliber whiner is dispensing savoir vivre. But after reading Radical Sanity, it doesn’t seem strange at all; it’s guidance for gals who might otherwise find themselves drinking a whole flask of cognac, impulsively booking a flight to Morocco “because good sources have reported there’s no such thing as pain in Marrakech,” or calling various people to threaten suicide. In other words, if you’re a boy-crazed scene-maker grasping at the slippery straws of maturity (i.e., much like the pre-Sanity Wurtzel), this slim volume seems to be for you.
Wurtzel’s tone mingles the quaintness of Miss Manners with the swagger of Fran Lebowitz—minus the wit of either. Short chapters elaborate commandments ranging from the cutesy-poo to the banal. In “Eat Dessert!” she proclaims, “We can all join up with the Chocolate Cake Revolution . . . and learn to love what is yummy once again.” “Travel Light” gives pointers to those who find themselves running through airports “having to schlep a duffel bag full of—who knows?—Armani suits you’ll never wear on the beach.” Especially keen on girl-power methods of man-catching, Wurtzel exhorts, “Have Opinions” (but not “merely as a flirtation device”—or you’ll be busted!), and even “Embrace Fanaticism” (“We must be positively bonkers about something other than men. . . . Even the most . . . sturdy among us seem to be only one man away from being reduced to mashed potatoes. This is not good”).
What is good, yet painfully hackneyed, is Wurtzel’s advice to the perplexed, uncommon woman to “Save Yourself,” rather than waiting for the boyfriend to do so. And a strange truth shines through the magical thinking supporting her dictum “Be Gorgeous,” when she observes, “I myself believe that I am about ten times prettier than I actually am. By dint of sheer willpower, I have managed to convince many people of this.”
Indeed, what is most impressive about Radical Sanity is that its author seems convinced her remarks are 10 times less trite than they are. I marveled at Wurtzel’s robust overvaluation of her insipid, unintentionally funny musings. “This book is in praise of mistakes,” she crows. “Just enjoy your idiocy.” Whether or not we enjoy her idiocy, Wurtzel does seem to practice what she preaches. So much optimism exudes from this pap, I began to wonder if I wasn’t in fact listening to Prozac, via the newly “sane” Ms. Wurtzel.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2001