By Carrie Fisher
Simon & Schuster, 176 pages, $21
Carrie Fisher may have inspired a generation of Princess Leia Halloween costumes with her signature movie role, but as she tells it in her memoir, Wishful Drinking, she’s never been at ease as an actress. Resolutely “anti-elegant,” she parlayed her celebrity into a rewarding writing career almost accidentally: Publishing honchos, impressed by her wit in an Esquire interview, urged her to write nonfiction; Ms. Fisher, then 30, responded with Postcards From the Edge, the popular autobiographical novel she would later make into a film directed by Mike Nichols. Three more novels followed—and over time it’s become clear that though she’s skilled at delivering pithy one-liners, she’s less adept when it comes to more substantial efforts.
Adapted from Ms. Fisher’s one-woman show of the same name, Wishful Drinking doesn’t quite satisfy as a stand-alone volume. A straightforward chronicle, it offers more cocktail party anecdotes than probing reflection, and lines that might have had some zing when delivered by Ms. Fisher onstage sit awkwardly on the page. (This, for instance, about her father, Eddie Fisher: “I mean, if I said, ‘You know how you saw your father more on TV than you did in real life?’ I don’t think you would say yes and be able to relate to that.”)
TO SURVIVE HER TRICKY childhood and adolescence, Ms. Fisher wisely honed a comic perspective. She explains: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” Much of her personal history (the Debbie Reynolds–Eddie Fisher–Elizabeth Taylor romantic triangle; her marriage to Paul Simon; her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder; the gay Republican operative who inconveniently died in her bed one night in 2005) has been tabloid fodder; and since it’s well documented elsewhere, we keep waiting for her to produce fresh insights. Instead she mainly opts for the same slight, droll note throughout, and the result is off-puttingly like self-pity. She’s especially sour on the subject of her upbringing: “I think [my parents] are both going to come see my show on the same night, run into each other, get that old feeling, get back together, and raise me right!”
So winningly wry onscreen, Ms. Fisher is best in print when she exposes her emotions candidly. Describing the way she and her brother used to savor watching their mother transform into Debbie Reynolds, movie star, Ms. Fisher still sounds awed “[t]hat this extraordinary creature who looked this way and had these remarkable abilities belonged to us somehow.” She marvels at her daughter Billie’s capacity to laugh at her convoluted origins (Bryan Lourd, Billie’s father, famously left Ms. Fisher for another man). And when she characterizes Wishful Drinking as a warts-and-all personals ad—“I … want someone to love and treasure and overwhelm and disappoint”—we hope a worthy somebody answers her call. What better testimony to Carrie Fisher’s enduring appeal?
Carla Pisarro is an editorial intern at The Observer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.