We’ll miss you, Princess

I originally published this essay (in slightly different form) on February 25, 2013 in The Booklist Reader. I decided to revisit it here to mark the passing of Carrie Fisher.

From what I can see of the people like me, we get better, but we never get well. – Paul Simon

But the lady tries.

Star Wars was the first movie I saw in a theater. I was six years old, and I wishfuldrinkingphotpdidn’t understand much of it, except that Princess Leia had the best hair in the galaxy. I longed to strut around the death star in snowy white, dirt-repelling robes, looking like I had two danishes stuck to my head. The force was definitely with that hair.

Light years passed, and now, in my 40s, I am loving the sadder, wiser princess in Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, a memoir based on her one-woman show. The trio of original Star Wars films made an indelible impression on Fisher and an entire culture, inspiring the brass-bikini fueled fantasies of a generation of men. But Aldaron’s premier royal didn’t really have much nuance to her character. In her memoir, Fisher pans her Star Wars performance and subsequent “Leia-laden life,” replete with the dolls, PEZ shooters and shampoo bottles it spawned.

Fisher was born into wealth and stardom; her parents are the glamorous and charmingly eccentric Debbie Reynolds and the less charming Eddie Fisher. Though she is often associated with George Lucas’ films and her on-again-off-again role as Paul Simon’s muse, she has experienced much success as a novelist, and on stage.

This is a quick read, and a wildly funny one. Fisher has a foul mouth, so proceed with caution. Whenever a book or film is referred to as a “romp” I am instantly wary, since this seems to be the new code word for depressing. But I pronounce this little book “a romp.” I listened to the audio version as well, performed by Fisher; if you listen to the audio, do pick up the book for the photographs.

Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985 and utilized electroconvulsive therapy. She is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic; more recently, weathered the passing of a close friend who died in her home. But the girl comes out swinging her formidable talent and humor like a light saber. I take my hat off to anyone who names her two moods “Roy” and “Pam.” That is spinning straw into gold. Here, one of many lines that lingered with me:  “…I heard someone once say that we’re only as sick as our secrets. If that’s true, then this book will go a long way to rendering me amazingly well.”

Happy reading, and may you also be well.

P.S. If you enjoy this book, her novels may also fit the bill: Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful  and Postcards from the Edge. And hang on to your braided buns, because she has another memoir! Shockaholic was published in 2011 and may be even more hilarious than Wishful Drinking, but also more crude and (in the details of the passing of Eddie Fisher) more sad.

 

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