Volume 92, Issue 30

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

hot air


Prozac prose whiney

Lauren Slater
Random House
$30.95/205 pgs.

Lauren Slater was not only the first person to receive Prozac, but also the first to keep taking it for a decade. Prozac Diary is Slater's personal account of her years as a pharmaceutical pioneer.

In 1988, Slater was prescribed a new anti-depressant as a last ditch effort to overcome years of depression, obsessive compulsion and eating disorders. After taking Prozac, Slater experienced an almost immediate "recovery" from the illness which had landed her in and out of psychiatric hospitals since she was 14. The drug allowed her to experience "normal" life for the first time.

Unfortunately, Slater conveys her feelings in terms which can only be seen as overstated. For example, she describes how before she started taking Prozac, she heard muzak and afterwards she heard Bach.

Slater's euphoria was cut short by "Prozac poop-out," a lessened effectiveness which comes from long-term use. Poop-out is exactly what readers will experience after a few chapters of Slater's whining. Even when things improve in her life, Slater still complains. The novel should have been titled I loved Prozac because it made me feel good after feeling bad. Then I felt too good and kind of missed feeling bad and then I felt okay.

Form is a major obstacle in the delivery of Slater's story. She awkwardly bounces from bizarre childhood flashbacks, to diary entries, to letters to her doctor and a chapter written in the third person. Slater's esoteric memories are also compromised by her use of bad metaphors. One of the worst is the description of Prozac as "a sexy firefighter that doused the flames of pain."

Slater should be given credit for an amazing turnaround in her life. She went from being a 26-year-old, completely incapacitated by illness to a Harvard educated woman with a PhD in psychology. Slater raises some worthwhile questions about the fine line between drug consumption and dependency. This kind of first hand account provides a cautionary voice to the millions of people who look to Prozac as a miracle pill.

Despite this unique reflection on society's desire to chemically normalize itself, Slater's Prozac Diary is basically a self-indulgent rant.


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Copyright The Gazette 1998