Welcome to 2020! After seeing The Rise of Skywalker and the finale of The Mandalorian, I wasn’t ready for Star Wars season to end. Cue me redownloading Carrie Fisher’s last memoir, which I’d already started and stopped twice since buying it in January of 2018.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Why I picked it: Based on my initial purchase date (two weeks after the release of The Last Jedi), I probably bought it for the same reason I picked it back up—an insatiable need for more Star Wars content after feeling all the feels.
I was fairly neutral about Carrie Fisher, but this was billed as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of A New Hope, and as I had thoroughly enjoyed other behind-the-scenes looks at the making of cult classics (As You Wish by Cary Elwes is fantastic reading for any fans of The Princess Bride and I highly recommend the audiobook for the cast cameos and the impressions), I decided to give this a go.
Blurb in brief: “When Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved–plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naivete, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Before her passing, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon was indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time–and what developed behind the scenes. Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars.”
What I thought: This was a hard read. Initially, because I found Fisher’s storytelling in this book to be distractingly frenetic. Lord knows I love a good yarn/pithy aside, but this was sensory overload in literature form and the main reason why I’d put this book aside twice already. However, sheer stubbornness forced me through the rest of this book, though I freely admit I skimmed a good deal of it.
First of all, this is not a memoir about the making of Star Wars. If that’s what you’re here for, move along. Other than a few brief cameos by Mark Hamill, the main story is Fisher’s relationship/affair with a fourteen years-older, married Harrison Ford during the filming of the first movie. This isn’t a kiss-and-tell by any means; Fisher offers no real juicy details and adopts a “fade-to-black and fill-in-the-blanks” approach for much of her story.
As someone who was once a teenage girl who kept a journal of my angsty musings and terrible poetry about unrequited love, the excerpts from Fisher’s diaries during this time felt both familiar and heartbreakingly sad.
There are plenty of fish in the sea
And you sure look like a fish to me
As soft as a crayfish with a mouth that opens and closes
And like a fish you don’t say pretty things
And you don’t send no roses
There are plenty of fish in plenty of seas
And like a fish you don’t bring shiny diamonds
And fall to your knees
If you’d never gotten close I wouldn’t have noticed when you were far away
But you filled up my nights and then emptied my days
There are girls who can be helped and there are girls who can be had
But you helped me and then had me
And now fish I need help again I need help real bad . . .
But, like the fisherman said, there are plenty of fish in the sea
And maybe someday some sweet salmon will come and swim away with me
The book then switches gears into a kind of melancholy look at celebrity and fame and their effect on identity.
After receiving the call to let her know that she’d gotten the part, Fisher recounts that she ran laughing outside into the street. “It was raining. It didn’t rain in L.A. It was raining in L.A. and I was Princess Leia. I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.”
Fisher has real affection for the iconic character that vaulted her into stardom, but a role like that clearly comes with a price. So often we think of movie stars as having it easy, but Fisher really gives the reader a sense of what it’s like to mean so much to so many who don’t actually know you at all.
My rating: 3/5 stars; Goodreads rating: 3.67/5 stars
While this book did not meet my initial expectations, I felt for Fisher. The way she paints her affair with Ford reminds me a bit of an arc on the show Bunheads in which Bailey Buntain’s character Ginny develops a crush on the mysterious and taciturn Frankie. She later ends up losing her virginity to him despite their hardly having exchanged more than a few words.
“I never know what he’s talking about and he can go hours without saying anything at all…he’s just so beautiful. Can you love someone you’ve never had a conversation with?”
All in all, this was a sad book. It made me sad for teenaged Carrie and sad for present-day Carrie, who despite her glibness, had been clearly and profoundly affected by the lifelong experience of being Princess Leia.