Elizabeth Wurtzel, the best-selling memoirist who wrote candidly about her experiences of addiction and depression, died at a Manhattan hospital on Tuesday at the age of 52.
The Washington Post reports that Wurtzel, who became an icon at 26 with the publication of Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America in 1994, announced in 2015 that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her husband, Jim Freed, told the Post that Wurtzel underwent a double mastectomy to stop the cancer’s spread, but it had already metastasized to her brain. The cause of death was reported as “complications from leptomeningeal disease, which occurs when caner spreads to cerebrospinal fluid.” Wurtzel penned a reflection on her diagnosis for the Guardian in 2018, writing, “I’m not sorry about anything. I was never sorry when I said I was. Apologies are a courtesy.”
In 2013 she wrote a personal essay for New York Magazine, another profound reckoning with her past. “I was born with a mind that is compromised by preternatural unhappiness,” she wrote, “and I might have died very young or done very little. Instead, I made a career out of my emotions. And now I am just quarreling with normal.”
In addition to her contributions at The New Yorker and New York, Wurtzel wrote several more books including a second memoir More, Now, Again (2002) and a collection of essays called Bitch (1998). In her last essay for New York Magazine, published in 2018, Wurtzel wrote about her family’s history, her career, and her diagnosis. “I was a miracle,” she writes, “I was unlikely. I was inexplicable. I came from out of nowhere.”