Fisher had a wry sense of humor, amazing candor, and courage in discussing her struggles.
I grew up in the ’70s without a mother, so my surrogate mom became this hybrid of aunts, grandma, Wonder Woman, and Princess Leia. I always say my longest relationship has been with Star Wars. I think that I’m not alone in the shock and sadness that followed the passing of Carrie Fisher. Throughout the Princess Leia years to Sally’s best friend, to Postcards from the Edge to Wishful Drinking to the best-worst mother in the world in Catastrophe; Carrie Fisher was always there for us. That wry sense of humor, amazing candor, and courage in discussing her struggles with mental health and substance abuse was a gift to everyone with similar challenges.
Her latest book, The Princess Diarist, is a memoir written after Fisher found the diaries she kept while filming Star Wars in 1976. Most articles I’ve read about this book have promoted it as “Carrie Fisher admits to affair with married Harrison Ford.” Well, yeah, that’s kind of the Enquirer version of the truth, I guess.
What I pulled from this book was that a 19-year-old girl with only one prior boyfriend dropped out of art school (after already having quit high school to perform with her mother in Vegas at 17) to star in her second-ever movie. The story is one of vulnerability and insecurity. She could have written the script for most women in their teens and early twenties, when so much of your self-esteem is based on what others think of you. That “maybe if he loves me, then I’ll love me, too” mindset goes away eventually, but makes you a neurotic, people-pleasing stereotype in the meantime.
Fisher wrote about the loneliness of being on her own in London filming the movie, of how she was afraid to complain or make requests because she wasn’t sure if it would be the one thing that would make them fire her. She speaks of Harrison Ford in a manner both tender and analytical. She wrote of her fans and how much she loved being Princess Leia—along with the struggles that it included. She called autographs a “celebrity lap dance,” and told stories about watching her mother sign them. It was all with an air of resignation: that this act of signing a name was so full of ego, and that professional philographists made her feel pursued and like meat. At the same time, hearing the story of someone whose daughter was named Leia, or whose life was changed because of her work, made everything worth it.
Although I am a huge fan of Fisher’s acting, it’s her writing that has meant the most to me in the last few decades. She said, “I always wrote. I wrote from when I was 12. That was therapeutic for me in those days. I wrote things to get them out of feeling them, and onto paper. So writing in a way saved me, kept me company. I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know.”
In this book, as with her others, we get a better understanding of her path because of her excellent way with language. She’s punny, clever, and beautifully expressive. Please don’t buy this book if you want to find out dirt about her and Ford; please pick it up if you want to hear her voice again. | Melissa Cynova