Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Princess Diarist: review

Not long before she suddenly died at age 60 around Christmas of 2016, actress Carrie Fisher, best known in her iconic role as Princess Leia Organa in the original Star Wars films, published her final memoir, which she titled The Princess Diarist. The memoir was billed as a tell-all compilation of journal entries written by Fisher in the 1970s, chronicling her affair with Harrison Ford back when Fisher was nineteen and Ford was in his thirties (and married, and a father). In reality, those early journal entries are sandwiched between a lengthy intro and "outtro" in which the contemporary Fisher offers insights on a life in show biz.

The 70s-era journal entries themselves don't actually shed much light on the affair: Fisher was coy about the exact nature of the intimacy she shared with Ford, so those who are hungry for the nasty details will have to look elsewhere. What does come through, in Fisher's book, is that Ford himself was taciturn to the point of being stony: for him, the relationship may well have been purely sexual, whereas for Fisher, there were passion and romance, and possibly even love—even though, despite her youth, she was perceptive enough to realize that, had she broached the topic of love with Ford, the relationship would have ended then and there. The fact that Ford was married and a father was also a taboo subject, so there was very little that Ford and Fisher—or "Carrison," as she came to call the relationship—could discuss. Which left only the sex, and Fisher's book is zip-lipped on that topic.

The Princess Diarist gives us several chapters of buildup before we get to read the actual diary entries from those early "Star Wars" days. When we do finally get to see what Fisher had written as a teen, several things become obvious: first, she was already a talented writer back then (Fisher went on to become a script doctor and an author several times over, having written the famous Postcards from the Edge and, later, Wishful Drinking, which was based on her one-woman show); second, despite her talent, she still had the vapidity of a neurotically overthinking nineteen-year-old girl on her way to addiction (which this book doesn't dwell on: you need to read her other books for that); third, she was an awful poet (in my opinion, at least). On that last score, I'll admit that some of Fisher's lovelorn poems contain turns of phrase that I envy, but for the most part, her words are in the service of some fairly childish sentiments. This is the writing of a girl, not a woman. Thankfully, the final part of the book returns us to the present day, to a much older and wiser and humbled Carrie, who caps off her reminiscences, in the end, by asking who she would have been had "Star Wars" not happened to her. Her answer? "I'd be me. You know, Carrie. Just me."

All of this feels much more poignant now that Fisher is gone. She was a nut in real life. Mark Hamill recently stated during an interview that he wished she were still around for the press junkets: she'd be standing behind the interviewer and shooting Hamill the finger because that's the kind of person she was. But strangely enough, for all the love that Hamill has publicly and repeatedly thrown Fisher's way, I found it fascinating, and a little disturbing, that in the acknowledgments section of her book, Fisher names everyone on the planet except Mark Hamill and her old flame, Harrison Ford. I wonder why.

No comments: