I finished listening to this audiobook by Carrie Fisher just a week or so before her untimely death. I wasn’t going to write a review, but with all the outpouring of affection and tributes the internet has since provided, I figured I would add this as my own small contribution.
I grew up with Star Wars. Unlike my parents (my mom saw it 7 times in theaters, back in olden times before things like VHS, much less Netflix) I can’t actually remember the first time I watched these movies. My parents probably shoved them in front of me at a very young age and, while I’ve never been the fanatical type, who couldn’t love Star Wars? I do remember my parents trying to get me into it by telling me Leia was a princess (back when I was in full Disney princess getup). That alone attracted me to her and her undeniable beauty didn’t hurt.
But Leia (as everyone has mentioned) was so much more than a princess. She was a badass. She had no time for tomfoolery and even less time for romance. Her life was at stake and there was no way she was just going to just sit quietly while a couple of dumbass men bungled her rescue. I probably did not appreciate that when I first watched Star Wars, but I sure as hell have come to appreciate it since.
I did not love this book as I thought I would, but I did like it. Fisher rambled at times and I wished she would get to the point, which is my biggest mark against this book. For example, she started the book by providing a list of notable events that happened in 1976 – the same year they shot the first Star Wars movie. I got what she was saying long before she moved on, but she didn’t even mention the most important event of all! – My parents got married that year.
Other than that, here’s what I thought.
I don’t care.
The book’s biggest selling point is that it finally reveals an affair Fisher and Ford had during the filming of the first Star Wars movie. As juicy as that revelation is, I didn’t care about it enough to listen to it for as long as Carrie rambled on about it in this book. So she had an affair? So what? It was the seventies. Who cares?
My one complaint is that she said she doesn’t blame Harrison and that she thinks he had a revelation at one point about just what he had gotten himself into. Excuse me, Ms. Fisher, but you were 19 and Ford was 33. What the hell did he think he was getting himself into? I know you were technically legal, but just barely. He still bore all the responsibility for that one, and yes, it’s reprehensible. I can only think Fisher said she didn’t blame him as a result of their friendship and to soften the blow on him of this big reveal.
Fame is Fickle
I’m not from a famous family, but even I figured out fairly early on that fame never sticks around. Although much of Fisher’s life can’t be called fortunate (her father left her mother in a very public scandal when Fisher was still very young) I do think she was fortunate to have a basis of reality that revealed just how fickle fame can be. She knew from the beginning that just because “Star Wars” was a success did not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that Fisher ever thought she had “made it”. She always knew she had made it for now, but that the other end of the wheel was always waiting for her, and I appreciated the sense of perspective she maintained from the very beginning of her carrier.
Diaries are personal
As I understand it, the whole book was based on Fisher having found some diaries she kept during the making of Star Wars. That’s fine, but I had not expected her to actually publish any of those diary entries. She did, but she didn’t read that part of the book herself. She hired someone else to read those entries, and I can only assume it was because they were too personal for her to read them herself. Or maybe she just wanted a younger-sounding voice to read them so the listener could better imagine a young Carrie Fisher writing them. Either way, I felt like it was a breach of privacy that I did not feel comfortable with. I would rather have done without them and stuck to the more general, glossed-over version I expected from this book.
That said, 19-year-old Carrie Fisher was a surprisingly good writer.
Carrie liked to mess with people.
Fisher reveals she got so sick of people asking her if she knew the movie would be the unprecedented success it was that she went the other direction and started saying she had thought it would be more successful. She asked them to imagine her disappointment when it wasn’t as successful as she had anticipated. Would they lose their minds? Turn to drugs? It made me laugh, which was clearly Fisher’s intention. She was never afraid to laugh at herself and that was never more clear than in this book.
At some point Fisher got into her “happily ever after” with Harrison Ford and it took me a few minutes to realize she was messing with me. She was describing nothing more than a 19-year-old’s fantasy of what her life might have been like and it’s funny and sad at the same time, which leads me to my next point:
Carrie did not like herself.
I think Fisher mentioned at some point in the book someone saying something about how the partner you choose says a lot about you. While I still believe Ford is not a “bad guy” he was certainly an unavailable guy, at least to a co-star he was having a fling with, and I’m pretty sure Fisher knew that going in. I’m also pretty sure that’s why she wanted to be with him, no matter how much she tried to convince herself she wasn’t going to get attached. Such lack of self love makes me sad, but it’s totally understandable from a young girl of only 19 from a famously broken home.
Carrie Fisher was a Class Act.
Fisher reserved a section towards the end of the book to talk about her experiences with her fans. She details rambling conversations with fans who just would not shut up and it was definitely another point that I wished Fisher had cut it short. It did not need to be that long.
On the other hand it showcased Fisher’s patience and empathy. She knew fans lined up for autographs, but many of them had also waited to have a personal experience with their hero and she was more than willing to give that to them. She waited and listened – really listened – while they told her their troubles and how much it meant for them to see her. She didn’t tell them to hurry along. She didn’t tell them she didn’t have time. She engaged in real human conversation with them, and realized right alongside them the things she had in common with her fans, many of which stretched far beyond a love of Star Wars. I’m sure there are many, many people out there who will remember her for her humanity and compassion in addition to her groundbreaking role as Princess Leia Organa.
R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, a.k.a. Princess/General Leia Organa.
P.S.: R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds: mother to Carrie Fisher and absolute perfection in “Singin’ in the Rain.”