Friday, December 30, 2016

Book Review: "The Princess Diarist" by Carrie Fisher

"I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was."

I've got to tell you, it was really weird reading this book given the fact that both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died this week. There were more than a few times in this book where Fisher made reference to her obituary, her eulogy, or her mother, all of which made me even sadder than I already was.

That being said, I've always been a fan of Fisher's writing, starting with Postcards from the Edge, and I love her sense of humor and her sarcastic, somewhat off-kilter view of everything. The Princess Diarist looks at her journey from her first movie role in Shampoo in 1975, to auditioning for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, to the effect that part has had on her entire life. But more than that, this book reveals (although it wasn't a secret once she started doing publicity for the book) information about her affair with Harrison Ford, her older, married costar, while filming Star Wars.

"From celebration to intoxication to assignation to infatuation to imitation to indignation—this was my trimester of the affair that was Carrison." (Carrison was the nickname she assigned to their relationship, much as the way the media creates nicknames for celebrity couples.)

Her recounting of the way the affair ran its course, the way they tried to keep emotions out of it, but the way Fisher really felt about Ford was both touching and humorous. She relied on her usual self-deprecation, but you could see she used it in this case as a defense mechanism, to protect herself from investing and expecting more than she was going to get. It's not an entirely flattering portrait of Ford, although you can tell how deep her feelings for him ran.

Apparently the genesis of this book was when Fisher found the diaries she kept during the filming of Star Wars. So after she told the story of "Carrison," the book then included her diary entries from that period. Most entries are somewhat oblique, not referring to Harrison directly, but it's clear to see how emotionally vulnerable she let herself get with him, and how the casual nature of their relationship hurt her. The entries include love poems, song lyrics, and reflections.

From her diary: "If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond, I shall be posthumorously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing."

If you're looking for scoop on the making of Star Wars beyond the genesis of her infamous hairstyle, you'll be disappointed. This book goes from her getting her role to her relationship with Ford to the aftermath of the movie and what former stars do to make some extra money. The journal entries take up a significant portion of the book, and because they're reasonably oblique, they're not as interesting as I had hoped.

I thought this book was interesting, but it was much more compelling when Fisher injected humor into her writing, as I feel that is where she always excelled. Her reflections on "Carrison" were touching; I can only imagine what it was like for Fisher to have had a relationship at a young age with a costar, a costar to whom she has always been inextricably linked. The book drags on a bit, but Fisher's writing is enjoyable to read.

Fisher left a rich legacy of work, both in film and writing. Her loss is tremendously sad, but we are lucky she shared so much of herself with us, and it is somewhat fitting that, as she thought, she lived her life as Princess Leia, and died while promoting a book about what it was like to live down that legacy.

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