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Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women [Paperback]

Elizabeth Wurtzel
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 1999
No one better understands the desire to be bad than Elizabeth Wurtzel.

Bitch is a brilliant tract on the history of manipulative female behavior. By looking at women who derive their power from their sexuality, Wurtzel offers a trenchant cultural critique of contemporary gender relations. Beginning with Delilah, the first woman to supposedly bring a great man down (latter-day Delilahs include Yoko Ono, Pam Smart, Bess Myerson), Wurtzel finds many biblical counterparts to the men and women in today's headlines.

In five brilliant extended essays, she links the lives of women as demanding and disparate as Amy Fisher, Hillary Clinton, Margaux Hemingway, and Nicole Brown Simpson. Wurtzel gives voice to those women whose lives have been misunderstood, who have been dismissed for their beauty, their madness, their youth.

She finds in the story of Amy Fisher the tragic plight of all Lolitas, our thirst for their brief and intense flame. She connects Hemingway's tragic suicide to those of Sylvia Plath, Edie Sedgwick, and Marilyn Monroe, women whose beauty was an end, ultimately, in itself. Wurtzel, writing about the wife/mistress dichotomy, explains how some women are anointed as wife material, while others are relegated to the role of mistress. She takes to task the double standard imposed on women, the cultural insistence on goodness and society's complete obsession with badness: what's a girl to do? Let's face it, if women were any real threat to male power, "Gennifer Flowers would be sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office," writes Wurtzel, "and Bill Clinton would be a lounge singer in the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock."

Bitch tells a tale both celebratory and cautionary as Wurtzel catalogs some of the most infamous women in history, defending their outsize desires, describing their exquisite loneliness, championing their take-no-prisoners approach to life and to love. Whether writing about Courtney Love, Sally Hemings, Bathsheba, Kimba Wood, Sharon Stone, Princess Di--or waxing eloquent on the hideous success of The Rules, the evil that is The Bridges of Madison County, the twisted logic of You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again--Wurtzel is back with a bitchography that cuts to the core. In prose both blistering and brilliant, Bitch is a treatise on the nature of desperate sexual manipulation and a triumph of pussy power.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books; 1st paperback edition (1 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704381079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704381070
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 269,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This makes for a very dense read. 6 Sep 2003
By Stuart Burns VINE VOICE
During her publicity tour for 'Bitch' (recounted in the later book 'More Now Again'), Elizabeth Wurtzel became intensely irritated with repeatedly being asked who she considered to be the great bitches. It tells both her and us two things. That the interviewers hadn’t read the book and that for many people the idea of a ‘bitch’, a sort of Margaret Thatcher / Alexis from Dynasty are very different to the kind of woman this book is about. Over the course of five essays Wurtzel tries to capture why it is that women are described with this kind of negative branding and described as manipulative when in fact they’re not really doing anything any more scandalous than their male counterparts, and that frequently they have to give up their independence as well, piggybacking on a man.
The mood of the book is perfectly captured by a story at the centre. She describes how Bill and Hilary Clinton drove into a garage, only to find their car being services by one of Hilary’s childhood sweethearts. The ex-President apparently turned to her and said: “If you’d married him you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant, “ to which she replied, “No, I wouldn’t. I’d be married to the President of the United States of America.” One of the stronger themes in the book is that behind most strong men there is an even stronger woman just behind. And that most of these strong women are also basket cases because the masculine presence creates an emotional glass ceiling; they literally can’t live with him or without him.
In fact, in this case the title is as much a verb as the assumed noun. There is a lot of venom on display in the book; Wurtzel is ultimately disappointed with the poor showing of her gender on occasion after occasion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading 3 Aug 2007
let me start by clarifying a couple of points made by other reviewers.
Anna Nicole Smith was deffinately not O.J. Simpsons wife in any shape or form, it was Nicole Brown Simpson, who is written about in the book. Also another reviewer says Elizabeth 1 would have made a good example, she is deffinately mentioned in the book, ok she doesnt get a full chapter, but she is not glossed over either. A constant critism seems to be that Ms Wurtzel chose to write about mainly american women, of course she did, she is american and grew up hearing about these women, she understands american values and culture. she couldn't write the book from the stand point of african women beacuse she is what she is. So although women from all over the globe are mentioned in the book, it is mainly americanised. Sometimes while reading the book the authour goes over the same material so many times you get a sense of deja vu. And sometimes Ms Wurtzel never seems to know exactly what she is trying to say, yes she wants to stand on her own and be under no mans rule and then she seems almost whimsical about wanting to find the right man. All in all though a very interesting read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars "Well-behaved women seldom make history"... 6 April 2013
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback quote from a familiar bumper-sticker. Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote this staccato tour-de-force of American popular culture, with a feminist slant, as the last millennium was drawing to a close. I was overseas at the time, and not paying too much attention to the back-home scene, so I found this read useful in providing at least snapshots images that dominated the culture back then: Amy Fisher, and her raging teenage hormones, Margaux Hemingway, Nicole Simpson and OJ, and the saddest case of all, in my opinion, Hedda Nussbaum's battered face and body, at the hands of Joel Steinberg. Wurtzel's attempts to relate these disparate people and events within a framework of more serious feminists works, commencing with an epigraph from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (Penguin Modern Classics)and ending with one from Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Naturally, Mary Wollstonecraft makes cameo appearances along the way. And what a great title for her epilogue: "Did I Shave My Legs for This?"

Staccato is operative, on speed even, as several other reviewers have suggested that the author was. On virtually each page, there are multiple proper names and the italics denoting the name of books, movies, or songs. For me, much was familiar, but there were also numerous references that flew over my head... just not "plugged in" enough, I guess. Quite a few reviewers didn't care for her attitude, which, I suspect, was more than a little tongue in cheek. I think that was a tongue, at least. But I found her "reference frame" stimulating, and feel she had a much better book in her if she had a better handle on that nervous twitch.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing! 5 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a fan of both Wurtzel and of feminist literature, I bought this book with a keen enthusiasm to delve into the author's views on the topic of "misbehaving women" throughout history, which is essentially what the book is all about. But I certainly wasn't expecting to be confronted by such a gruelling and uninspiring piece of work. I was seriously disappointed. Wurtzel seems to go off on many incoherent tangents whilst hardly making any valid and interesting points. What I was ultimately looking forward to turned out to be somewhat of a chore. The only reason I've given this book two stars rather than one is because I've always enjoyed Wurtzel's writing, but unfortunately there isn't anything positive to be said about this book of hers in particular.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused and confusing, but with nuggets of insight
The subtitle of the book, "In Praise of Difficult Women", is misleading if it is judged by the examples of so-called "difficult" women that Ms. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2003 by Joseph Haschka
5.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of misunderstood women
This book was truly amazing. It seethes with feministic quality and spells out to society the true power of a woman. An inspiring read for feminists and interested parties alike.
Published on 19 Jan 2001 by
2.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat misleading title
I had been greatly looking forward to reading "Bitch": at last, I said, a study of intelligent, independent, courageous women (i. Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars The can't live without guide for the complete woman .
Elizabeth Wurtzel delivers yet another masterpiece in her best book ever 'Bitch'. From revealing facts of and insight into OJ's relationship with Nicole Brown-Simpson to the ever... Read more
Published on 12 Jun 2000 by
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped garbage
This is a badly-written load of dross, written by someone who is so profoundly ignorant that she doesn't even realise her quasi-philosophical ramblings are destitute of one small... Read more
Published on 10 Jun 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, a book that really makes you think...
Really liked this book, the articles all revolved around women and the 90's. How women are perceived and how they perceive themselves; sounds boring but in actuality is very... Read more
Published on 1 Jun 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bitch Bites Back!
Although Elizabeth Wertzel's first book, 'Prozac Nation', could not be surpassed, this book is a brilliant analysis of women in society today. Read more
Published on 25 Jan 1999
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