The single most impressive fact about Carrie Fisher’s writing is her openness and honesty. It shines through on every page of this short memoir, and is so refreshing; particularly refreshing when compared to the typical stale celebrity “tell-all” that dominate the book charts at this time of year.
In her case, Fisher’s openness is an integral part of her struggles with addiction, the topic around which this book was written. It seems that Fisher needed to own her struggles with addiction and mental health, and what better way than to own them than to share them in her own words? It was an incredibly brave strategy, but she pulled it off because of her innate ability to see the humorous side of her struggles and her unique life circumstance.
Reading the tales of her early life, one is reminded of the poem by the renowned English poet Phillip Larkin’s famous line, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had. And add some extra, just for you“. I think Fisher would have admitted this was true in her case…from a certain point of view…but reading this book also allows you to appreciate the strong and rewarding relationship that Fisher had with her mother Debbie Reynolds. Indeed reading this after their deaths there is an overwhelming sense of losing two very unique personalities in the history of the silver screen. The two were neighbors and the unique bond that was shared between Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd (Fisher’s daughter) was important to all three.
Elsewhere there are some beautiful passages in the book, about Fisher’s relationship with Paul Simon, and although they parted ways there is a clear and genuine affection for Simon that shines through in this book. Some beautiful lyrics are quoted, Fisher (perhaps not entirely) jokingly says that she is taking the initiative and using the lyrics in her book without clearance from Simon’s legal team on the grounds that she never sought alimony payments from him. Fisher quotes Mike Nichols who referred to Fisher and Simon by saying they were “two flowers, no gardener. No one was minding the relationship“.
“She’s come back to tell me that she’s gone / As if I didn’t know that/ As if I didn’t know my own bed/ As if I didn’t notice the way she brushed her hear from her forehead”
Paul Simon, Graceland
There are some surprisingly tart remarks reserved for George Lucas, although one gets the sense that she came to terms with the level of fame bestowed upon her by his Star Wars franchise. This book contains the famous quips about Lucas’ “no bras in space” line. Fisher recounts that “George [Lucas] comes up to me the first day of filming, and he takes one look at the dress and says, ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress … because there is no underwear in space.'” He later advises that this no underwear rule is premised on weightlessness in space where the body expands – ergo, if your bra doesn’t expand in a similar fashion you’ll get strangled by your own bra. As Fisher relays (in a quote that sadly came true sooner than we’d gave liked), “Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obituary — so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
For me though, it was the quieter moments of this book that were really notable. In the Author’s Note she referred to the fact that, “at times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.” Interestingly she states that she had no thoughts of ending her life, instead referring to the fact that “I in no way intended to risk my life. I just wanted to turn the sound down and smooth down all my sharp corners. Block out the dreadfully noisy din of not being good enough – which on occasion I was actually able to do“.
Writing as someone who was diagnosed with severe depression around 5 years ago, I can relate to Fisher’s statement on the desire to obliterate her senses through alcohol and drugs, as opposed to necessarily ending her life. I can, at least, attest to the authenticity of that type of sentiment on wishing to obliterate daily life. Fisher’s strength and courage lay with the fact that despite her profile she was so open and frank about her condition. Others like myself will allude to such a condition quasi-anonymously in a post like this, but won’t admit to dealing with a condition to anyone outside of a very close family circle. The fear of the stigma associated with mental illness remains.
Overall though it is Fisher’s unerring sense of humor that remains with the reader after finishing this book. She refers to being “invited” to a mental hospital, acerbically adding that, “it’s sort of like an invitation to the White House – only you meet a better class of people”. A prescient statement that rings very true to the modern reader. Even though this book is a short read it is packed with fantastic little quips like this that depict just how talented a writer she was.
Given the deaths of both Fisher and her mother last year, one small passage leaps off the page to me. As poignant as it is, I think it is an appropriate place to close this review, so I’ll let Carrie get the final words to this piece. It speaks to the close bond to her mother, and was particularly notable to read in light of events.
“There’s this funny thing [my mother] does now which is to offer my brother and me things that we can have after she’s dead. If my eyes happen to rest on anything in [my mother’s] home, she rushes over and says, “Do you like this? Because I can put a little sticker with your name on it to mark it now. Otherwise I’ll leave it for your brother”.
It may be a sad to read this now, knowing that Reynolds outlived her daughter by a very short period, but I found it a very touching exchange. Despite all the outlandish Hollywood backdrop to their lives, mother and daughter had quirky little intimate joking discussions like this – just as many of us do with our parents – and were obviously so close in life.
Rest in Peace Carrie and Debbie.
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