Saturday, September 25, 2021

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher


I feel like there are three different types of older famous people. There are the has-beens, who can't let go of their fifteen minutes of fame and insist on reliving it over and over until it almost becomes a form of self-satire. Then there are the rolling stones-- no, not the band, although also maybe the band-- who continue to churn out content and charm while flipping the bird to anyone who even utters the words, "But what about retirement...?" And then there are the people who seem to become almost fermented by their fame; it changes them, making them more complex and interesting, but also sour and maybe a little bitter.  Celebrity vinegar, if you will.

Carrie Fisher is celebrity vinegar.

I picked up SHOCKAHOLIC because I heard that Ms. Fisher is incredibly transparent about her mental health struggles in this book which I, as someone who also has a mood disorder, really value. Because transparency! Also, it seems like she had the sort of bipolar that didn't respond so well to medication, so she actually had ECT (known in the common parlance as "shock therapy"), although in this book she actually tries to reduce the scare factor a little while also acknowledging the memory loss.

The beginning is kind of disorganized and a little boring, with strange, circuitous rambling and long passages about symptoms and treatments. I did like the way she talked about her bipolar and was so utterly comfortable (at least on paper) with owning her illness without letting it own her, but it was also not all that fun to read. The first quarter or so of the book is like this and THEN.

Things get good. Really, really good. Here's what you can expect to find inside this gem. ✨

⚡️ Lots and lots of celebrity gossip. Oh man, is there tea in this book. Carrie Fisher has opened up her own tea shop and just goes full ham, swinging around a giant mallet of IDGAF to smash and spill that tea just about everywhere. She talks about her parents' marriage(s), her stepmother, Liz Taylor, and her friendship with Michael Jackson which is probably the most awkward chapter in the book as she struggles to defend him without sounding like she's defending him. And it is kind of YIKES.

⚡️ Her relationship with her parents late in life. It was interesting to see the contrast between her parents' American Sweetheart origins and what they were like in their old age. Carrie's relationship with her father as an adult was especially weird and interesting (dysfunctional but also, a relationship). You sort of get the vibe that neither of them-- but especially Eddie-- were really prepared for parenthood and Carrie's relationship with both of them improved when she was an adult who could see them as flawed human beings that existed separately from the realm of parental responsibility.

⚡️ A scorn of Hollywood glitz and glamor. You know all those romance novels about the jaded rich kids? That is Carrie, all grown up. She has a lot of good things to say about how fame is so short-lived and addictive, and how utterly fake and ridiculous and superficial it all is. The Hollywood schmooze, as it were, seems to simultaneously amuse and depress her, and she seems to have an especial bitterness for the way that her role as Leia has both immortalized and condemned her, all in one neat stroke.

⚡️ Did I mention the SNARK? She has such a witty, clever way with words. The dismal first quarter of this book is hard to wade through but as soon as you get to the Michael Jackson chapter, it really picks up and she becomes this dazzling, firecracker of a writer who sucks you into her stories like a Scheherazade on crack. Her canny observations and self-effacing humor are pure gold.

I've read several of this author's books at this point and I've liked almost all of them (except THE PRINCESS DIARIST, which just made me sad). This book strikes the perfect chord between bitter and funny and I think if you have that same sort of dichotomy inside you (i.e. inside you are two wolves: one is depressed, the other likes bad jokes and memes), I think you'll really enjoy this book.

Also, the photographs (and their captions) are EVERYTHING.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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