So New York magazine, which has several very good writers on its rolls, also published a piece by Elizabeth Wurtzel, "Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One-Night Stand of a Life."
The headline is a lie: There is no fearless reckoning anywhere in the 5542 words. There is no clear-eyed assessment of one's actions as placed within the larger framework of the society in which she lived. There is nothing honest or difficult in the evaluations Wurtzel makes. It is, instead, the litany of the perpetual victim: She's got "no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund" because she doesn't live by your rules, man! She's got a pure heart! That makes her dangerous.
Actually, it doesn't. It makes her the belles lettres equivalent of Lindsay Lohan.
Like Lohan, Wurtzel is largely unemployable, largely operating in a reality-distorting bubble that is quite evidently exhausting to maintain, largely featured in the media so we can all point and snigger as the trainwreck. Like Lohan, Wurtzel has talent, but she has served it poorly. She claims, "I made a career out of my emotions" and that
Maybe I should have been wiser. But the only way I could have was to have been a completely different person, along the way probably becoming a different writer, most likely a lousy one.
The assertion could no hold up under any logical examination -- leading one to wonder exactly what they're teaching the L1s up in New Haven -- since Wurtzel is assuming that being wise is somehow the result of losing one's sense of self, which runs counter to damn near every philosophic tradition in the Western canon.
More damningly, Wurtzel is asserting that by her very personality she is a good writer, and people who are not her are not good writers. This assertion is easily proven false.
This puts me squarely in mind of Florence King's criticism of Sylvia Plath's work:
Instead of writing about what she did, she did what she wanted to write about. Truly creative people don't operate this way, and perhaps, deep down, she knew it.
I'll give this to Wurtzel: She does not claim to be creative.
Of course, creativity usually involves a healthy curiosity about the world around you. It also requires you to cease being the only thing about which you can write. A lot of people reacted in irritation or outrage at Wurtzel's assertion that "I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes," but what is more pitiable than her skipped-half-of-feminist-theory-101 bloviating there is that she's been selling herself for years. It's beginning to show.
Nobody will know the name of the assigning editor at New York, nor the one who was in charge of editing this bilge and apparently spent the working day doing Sporcle quizzes instead. But those people? They've helped generate a lot of traffic for their publication, with something as minimally elegant as running an unfiltered piece by someone who eagerly performs the journalistic equivalent of flashing her crotch to TMZ.