Monday, January 2, 2017

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

"I am someone who wants very much to be popular. I don't just want you to like me, I want to be one of the most joy-inducing human beings that you've ever encountered. I want to explode on your night sky like fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve in Hong Kong" (47).

This is going to be a difficult book to review. I've never reviewed a book so close to the author's passing, and it was a sad and bittersweet experience - sad, because the world is now deprived of a funny and highly relatable individual, an excellent actress, and a surprisingly witty and talented writer. Bittersweet, because she is all those things and it's always a pleasure to go over the accomplishments of someone you admire. There isn't much more to say than that without cheapening the sentiment.

I've read two of Ms. Fisher's other books, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, which is a grim but evilly funny (and probably semi-autobiographical) satire that does for Hollywood what Carl Hiaasen does for Florida, and WISHFUL DRINKING, which is a memoir about alcoholism and the darker sides of fame. Both are excellent. I recommend both. Because of that, I was super excited to get my hands on this one.

THE PRINCESS DIARIST, sadly, fell short for me. I love the title and the cover, but the content inside that clever packaging wasn't as engaging.

Fisher starts off with an introduction - the highlights of 1976. Then she switches to talking about who she is, a bit about her family, and then talks about her first role in Shampoo with Warren Beatty. The heading for this section sums up this content fairly well: "Life Before Leia."

After this, she dives into what it was like to work on Star Wars, and the overall emotion here seems to be bewilderment. Like she isn't quite sure how she landed such a famous role and why people kept bothering her about it. Many celebrities, when writing about their past works, are enthusiastic and excited, and heap praise upon their coworkers. Fisher doesn't do that. She seemed jaded and resigned to me, and apart from Harrison Ford, scarcely mentioned her other co-stars at all. Maybe part of her lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that she felt like her role was appearance-driven. There's that famous quote she said to Daisy Ridley about fighting the slave outfit, after all, and she still seems annoyed about the Slave Leia bikini costume (which is so iconic that it has its own Wikipedia page). Apparently she was also sent to fat camp to lose ten pounds for the role before she actually got around to doing any acting.

The chapter about her affair with Harrison Ford is also quite strange, made stranger by the fact that it's immediately followed by the excerpts from the diary she kept as a teenager while onset at Star Wars. Adult Fisher says a lot without saying anything at all, except for confirming that they actually had an affair, and that she wanted to admit to it first before anyone else got to digging and taking liberties with the truth (understandable). Teen Fisher's voice is much more wistful, with lots of poetry and dreamy drabbles that wouldn't be out of place in THE PRINCESS SAVES HERSELF IN THIS ONE. It makes for a very interesting contrast, seeing the two juxtaposed together, very similar to seeing the picture of Fisher as an older woman posing next to her forever-young slave self at the Wax Museum.

The last portion of the book is the easiest portion to follow, which is a double-edged sword because it's the portion of the book where many claim that she mocked and ripped on her fans. She does mock them, but not in a mean way. Again, I got that sense of bewilderment that I did in the beginning, where she just seems mystified by these people - total strangers - who are coming up to her and telling her how much of an impact she had on their life, whether it was as a feminist icon or sex symbol. One cringe-worthy moment she shares, which is perhaps characteristic of awkward fan-created situations that celebrities are unable to escape from, was during a signing in which a child burst into tears when pushed towards her by their parent because she was the "old" Leia, and the child wanted to meet the young Leia they had seen in the 1976 film. What can you say to that?

I was surprised she didn't say much about The 'Burbs and Episode VII: those are my two favorite things that she was in, and the fact that they were excluded from this book made me wonder if maybe she didn't enjoy those roles or didn't think they were worth discussing. What a shame.

The PRINCESS DIARIST is an okay book, but it didn't have the wit that I loved her for in her other books. It felt...bitter, and incomplete. She says a lot without saying much at all, and by the time you get to the end of the book, you're just as mystified about what she's like as you were at the beginning, second-guessing yourself the whole time. "Was that a hint? Is what she's saying funny? Is she secretly laughing at me?" She's like a manic pixie dream girl who's only playing the role to be ironic. Or maybe she wants to keep that last piece of herself private. I guess we'll never know for sure.

RIP, Carrie Fisher.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars


  1. I'm not a star wars fan at all and I felt like she was totally mocking her fans. I don't know why I even picked this up but I was hugely disappointed.

    1. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who felt this was lacking. Personally, I think her other writing is much better! If you haven't read them already, definitely pick up POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE or WISHFUL DRINKING.