The Princess Diarist (Memoir #3), by Carrie Fisher

Seven stars

In the final of her short memoirs, Carrie Fisher turns her focus onto the inevitable Star Wars franchise and her memories from being on the set in 1976. As the book opens, Fisher lists a number of memorable occurrences from the year, all of which made the filming of a low-budget space fantasy film pale in comparison, or so it would seem. While she does not mention it explicitly, years of excessive drug use and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) surely scrambled some of the memories and would make them less than pristine. However, Fisher mentions discovering the diary she kept while working on set, which jogged her memory enough to explore many of the events from that spring. While she was the daughter of the famous duo, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Carrie was still forced to go through the rigours of auditioning for roles and emerge with less than stellar results in the early days. She began her cinematic life with a small role in Shampoo, a film written and starring Warren Beatty. Fisher recounts a fairly odd interaction when she, as a mere seventeen year-old, was ogled by Beatty as he decided if she ought to go bra-less on set for her one scene. From there, it was trying to sell herself for either the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars or Carrie in the eponymous film based on the Stephen King novel. George Lucas, a seemingly mute troll, saw much potential in Fisher playing Leia and so began the journey. What some have come to find as the most revealing portion of the memoir (and to which Fisher admits she waited forty years to share) is an extensive discussion about off-screen interactions between Fisher and Harrison Ford. Feeling that four decades is enough time to have held back and fearing the affair could be smeared if revealed after her death (does anyone else notice the coincidence?), Fisher discusses a kiss in the back of a production car between Ford (thirty-four) and herself (nineteen), that led to a weekend of sheet wrinkling passion and was repeated throughout filming. Fisher wrestles with admitting that Ford was married and eventually surmises that it was likely more loneliness than a true connection between them, which is further substantiated when Fisher adds a collection of her diary entries that shows the infatuation she had for Ford. These entries from her teenaged self are offset with a collection of sentiments having fermented for four decades, which makes what happened in 1976 seem less scandalous to the reader. Fisher ends the memoir with some memories of trying to ‘sell’ this film that seemed to be doing so in its own and begins what became a massive science fiction franchise, alongside the rollout of trying to keep her stardom alive alongside interactions with many a quirky fan. An interesting, though very topic-specific, final memoir in the Carrie Fisher collection, the reader can bask in much of its raw honesty alongside a number of humorous anecdotes.  

I suppose I would call myself a fan of the Star Wars films, though I am by no means one of the hardcore variety. I did find some of these behind the scenes stories to be highly entertaining and did enjoy Fisher’s take on her interactions with Harrison Ford, though do not feel it was either as scandalous or as significant as some might find. While it was insightful to learn that Fisher felt so strongly for her co-star, there came a time when the actual journal entries became too much. It became all to apparent that Ford and Fisher were on different planes (might I say ‘galaxies’ and not have a symphony of eyebrow raises?), where the young Leia was awestruck by the suave Solo. These entries were well presented, though they soon became filled with poor poetry and supersaturated in angst. I digress, but a large portion of this piece focussed on that interaction and the fallout of their (love) affair. Fisher’s insights have me wanting to learn more about the backstories of Star Wars production, perhaps away from the sexual escapades of its prime actors, though Fisher does keep things discrete and professional while not denying the feelings she had at the time and recollections of them all these years later. Throughout all three pieces, I have come to realise that Fisher is a wonderful wordsmith, delivering humour and passion with so many verbal alternatives that the reader will see that this high-school dropout surely learned a great deal in the School of Life. Perhaps more of a tell-all than past memoirs, Fisher offers more seriousness than her usual humour in this instalment, unfortunately the last.

Kudos, Madam Fisher, for all the honesty that you explored in this final collection of memories. You will be missed and your name will forever rest in the minds of many as Princess Leia, though one can hope the moniker of ejaculatory assistant fades in time.

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Shockaholic (Memoir #2), by Carrie Fisher

Seven stars

In the second of her short memoirs, Carrie Fisher returns with more anecdotes and funny stories that come from her life. Again, Fisher opens with the disclaimer that she underwent electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which erased some of her past memories. She explores ECT a little more for the reader, both its origins in pre-WWII Italy and her own experiences with the treatment. ECT remains, as Fisher describes it, as a last-ditch effort to rid the mind of those looming clouds of depression, where psychotherapy has not worked and medication would only increase the ever-present fog. Fisher considers it a ‘blast of the cement walls of the brain’, which does a marvellous job while leaving some memory loss as a byproduct. Fisher also explored a number of personal struggles that befell her throughout life, especially those she did not discuss in Wishful Drinking. Due to her depression and the traumatic experience of losing a close friend, Fisher turned back to drugs and became unable to properly raise her daughter, Billie. This strained their relationship to the point that Fisher found herself in that horrible cycle of self-medicating to ease the pain of causing her daughter increased angst. Further chapters explore an extremely frank and acerbic exchange with Senator Edward Kennedy in the mid-80s while on a blind date with another member of Congress. The banter proved highly amusing, though Fisher recounts that she was not sure what to make of this man. Fisher also had a close relationship with Michael Jackson and spends much time defending him and offering a personal plea that Jackson was not the pedophile that many made him out to be, while acknowledging his relationship with children was anything but mainstream. I am not entirely convinced, but that is for another review on a entirely separate day. With Elizabeth Taylor as a close friend to Jackson and also one of Fisher’s former step-mothers, the memoir does come full circle to discuss Eddie Fisher and the relationship he had with his daughter. Sometime strained and inevitable quite irregular, Carrie Fisher does open up and speak honesty of the man, adding her own degree of heartfelt sentiment. Another interesting piece that offers more stories outside of the famed Star Wars tales, Fisher entertains readers looking for a little humour and insight without the weighty narrative of a substantial memoir or autobiography.

While I had little interest in her two novels, veiled memoirs of sorts, I find when Fisher steps out and tells the stories about her own life, they hold more impact for the reader. Less a tell-all than a means to give the reader a better understanding of her life, Fisher uses humour and the bluntness that she was in a drug-addled state for much of these years to recount poignant vignettes that made her the woman she became. Perhaps one to be someone centric and drop names throughout, Fisher does not appear to do this for the sake of fame, but to better explain some of her views on the Hollywood and New York communities. Not hiding behind her famous parents, but also not using them as a crutch to excuse her behaviour, Fisher offers readers a ‘behind the curtain’ look at the world she lived. Told with honesty and candour, the reader cannot help but appreciate her efforts between laughing at the antics that appear on the printed page.

Kudos, Madam Fisher for not trying to candy-coat things for the reader or those with whom you have crossed paths over the years.

Wishful Drinking (Memoir #1), by Carrie Fisher

Seven stars

Turning to the first of her short memoirs, I was faced with some of Carrie Fisher’s most interesting sentiments and humorous anecdotes detailing a life about which I knew very little. Fisher adds as an opening disclaimer that she underwent electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which erased some of her past memories, so things within these pages might not be as clear or succinct as their actual occurrences. Born in the worst possible situation, the offspring of two Hollywood stars, Carrie Fisher found herself in the middle of the most complex family tree imaginable. With Eddie Fisher (an apparently famous crooner of the 1950s) and Debbie Reynolds (famous Hollywood starlet at a young age) as parents, Fisher was forced to live in their blinding glory and make a name for herself. However, as with many star-studded couples, her parents moved on to bigger and better things, leaving her as a child of divorce. Does she use this excuse to explain away her decision to turn to drugs and alcohol? Not at all, or at least no more than any other child. Fisher tells of a life both in Los Angeles and New York, following her mother along her successful but fading career before she ended up on the set of Star Wars at nineteen and carving out a name for herself. This single character (Princess Leia) has permeated Fisher’s very being and she was forever unable to shake its presence. Pulling out some stories about her interactions with George Lucas to explain why wearing a bra on set would not make scientific sense, her brief marriage to Paul Simon, and eventually marrying a man who got her pregnant and eventually announced that he was gay, Fisher takes the reader through a whirlwind tour of some of her most memorable moments, all surrounding an ever-increasing dependence on pills, psychiatrists, and flashes of fame. An interesting smattering of thoughts and memories, instilled with enough humour to leave the reader feeling this is an extended comedy dialogue, Fisher presents something to tide the reader over between larger and more substantial reading assignments. Funny for what it is, but not a stellar piece for those seeking an in-depth exploration of Carrie Fisher’s life.

Some might wonder why I am reading Carrie Fisher after I panned her two novels so recently. I knew what I was getting into with this book and it delivered precisely what I expected. While I might have preferred something more linear, I found myself interested in all the adventures, follies, and downright stupidity that crossed Fisher’s path. I knew her only as Princess Leia (though I was not one to plaster posters upon my wall) and so all of this proved both intriguing and even a little entertaining. Fisher does not try to gussy up her writing or her stories. They are precisely as she remembers them, though she does remind the reader of her ECT throughout the piece, which acts as a means to understand some of the more random commentaries found herein. Engaging and even a little provocative, Fisher serves her purpose by presenting this piece, the first in what became a series. We shall see what else comes to pass as the Force flows through me for the other two memoir-ish publications.

Kudos, Madam Fisher for entertaining and intriguing me. A nice appetizer before I delve into a month of hard-going biographies

The Best Awful (Suzanne Vale #2), by Carrie Fisher

Three stars

In her follow-up ‘novel’, Fisher continues this quasi-biographical story about Suzanne Vale. In this piece, Vale seems to have come to the horrible realisation that the man who got her pregnant has since had the sexual epiphany that he is gay. Struggling with this, Vale tries to put it all into perspective while bemoaning the offspring of a dual-celebrity relationship and the issues that are sure to be bestowed on her daughter, Honey. While Vale tries to come to terms with these new realities, she begins a carefree life that sees her trying to better understand this major change. What follows is a series of events that leave the reader with ringside tickets to the slow and constant spiral of an addict still incapable of handling the hard pitches that life seems to throw. Fisher still seems happy to amass a scattering of thoughts in veiled fiction form, with strong parallels to her own life. While a decent wordsmith, Fisher may have wanted to move away from the smarmy life she lived and choose a new avenue.

I respect that everyone has their life and that an author ought to write about what they know best. That said, writing quality is a major factor in producing a decent piece of fiction (and one would hope non-fiction as well). This remained more of a train wreck than the first ‘novel’ in the series and I can only be thankful that there will be no others. The difficulties of a Hollywood star bleed through the pages of this book, though it is as though Fisher wants to excuse the behaviour that comes with the pressure of life under the microscope. I am not prepared to give her a pass, even as she has passed on, and blow rainbows into this review for something that was less than mediocre. Vale proves to be even more vapid than the first story and offers little of insight or entertainment for the reader, save her running off the rails when things get a little difficult. Another story with few characters of interest and where most were lacklustre. Again the search for a plot turns up less than the manner Jabba the Hutt might have shown on a good day. Fisher again tries to tell a monologue of her life, though does not stick with the short memoirs that she has released. This is by no means the best of anything, but it was awful.

Shameful, Madam Fisher that you would continue to offer up such fictional drivel. Thank god you know how to write or this would have been the hottest mess I have come across in a long time. 

Postcards From the Edge (Suzann Vale #1), by Carrie Fisher

Four stars

In her first piece of fiction, Fisher seeks to relay some sentiments through this quasi-biographical story. Suzanne Vale is an actress who has succumbed to the horrors of addiction and finds herself in a treatment facility. While there, she recounts some of her views on fellow addicts and the trials of life on the inside. Released back into her real world, Vale begins the slow process of re-establishing herself, securing a new agent while trying to return to the life she knows so well. However, as seems to be the yoke of all those who have tasted fame, she finds herself in a form of purgatory, unsure where she fits in and how others will see her. By the end of this short piece, she has found a form of amorous connection, though it is unclear if it will be long-lasting. Truly a scattering of thoughts that tries to relate back to her own life, Fisher may have work her side-buns too tightly if this is supposed to be high quality writing.

I respect that everyone has their life and ideas that shape them. I also am sure that it is difficult to be a Hollywood actress and face the rigours of the bright lights and paparazzi on a daily basis. However, like all people, actors are people and have to face the everyday world. Fisher seeks, I think, to portray a form of herself in the Vale character, but it comes across more as a justification for acts and serves as a trivial and superficial approach to life. A few characters who were lacklustre and a plot… was there one? At times I was unsure what I was reading, wondering if this might be some form of monologue that sought to tell stories and anecdotes. This was not a story as much as it was a means to express herself without using her own name and experiences. If only to honour her recent passing, I will likely try the second Vale piece and see what comes of this, but I am certain to list RETURN TO SENDER on this particular postcard.

Thank you Madam Fisher for your insights. Perhaps stick to recounting stories about yourself and not using a straw man in the form of Suzanne Vale.