Book Review: The Princess Diarist

princess-diaristSpending time inside the mind of Carrie Fisher is never dull.

In her newly published memoir, the author takes us back to a galaxy long, long ago… to share her experiences portraying the unforgettable Princess Leia — she of the cinnamon bun hairstyle and metal bikini — in a little indie movie called Star Wars.

Prompted by her recently unearthed journals, Fisher revisits her experiences as a 19-year-old actress — one of several unknowns or relative unknowns cast in this strange movie, created by a guy from Modesto, filming on a shoestring budget in London.

As the headlines proclaimed when this book came out in October, in The Princess Diarist, Fisher confirms what many suspected for years — that she and Harrison Ford had an affair during the filming of Star Wars. At the time, she was a teen with one previous relationship in her recent past, and Ford was in his mid-30s, married, and a father. Their relationship lasted a few months only… but apparently was a huge part of Fisher’s overall experience as she entered the world of movie stardom.

The Princess Diarist has transcribed pages from her diaries at its center, and is framed by chapters before and after describing her introduction to acting, the experience of filming Star Wars, and the fan frenzy that has defined her life ever since.

Fisher’s writing is both funny and weird, as she creates the oddest descriptions and twists her sentences around in all sorts of unexpected ways that made me pause, re-read, and laugh. Here are some prime tidbits from among the many, many Post-It flags I used to mark amazing passages from the diary section of the book:

So he assumes his apathetic poker face and I sit practicing wry knowing looks somewhere in his periphery. I don’t dare pick a topic for fear that it won’t be funny enough or interesting enough for his awe-inspiring judgment. With his silence he establishes himself as a sort of trapped audience and so you break your ass to meet the enormous challenge of entertaining him, frantic with worry that his teeth might suffocate.

 

I’ve got to learn something from my mistakes instead of establishing a new record to break. Maybe stop fooling around with all these human beings and fall in love with a chair. It would have everything that the immediate situation has to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier.

Chairs. They’re always there when you need them and, while their staying implies total devotion, they still manage to remain aloof, noncommittal and insensitive. Immovable and loyal. Reliable and unconsoling. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.

 

If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumorously embarrassed. I shall spend my afterlife blushing.

 

And a few more, from the non-diary portions:

My hope aren’t high, and neither, as it happens, am I.

 

I think boys may have been attracted to my accessibility. Even if I did have some princessy qualities, I wasn’t conventionally beautiful and sexy, and as such was less likely to put them down or think I was too good for them. I wouldn’t humiliate them in any way. Even if I teased them in the context of running around with laser guns dodging bullets, I wouldn’t do it in a way that would hurt them.

 

It was one movie. It wasn’t supposed to do what it did — nothing was supposed to do that. Nothing ever had. Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie misbehaved. It leaked out of the theater, poured off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply that they required endless talismans and artifacts to stay connected to it.

Honestly, I wish she’d spent a little more time on behind-the-scenes, making-of type reminiscences — but I suppose there are plenty of those around for the true Star Wars fans. The beauty of The Princess Diarist is seeing an unvarnished picture of a woman who was unprepared for stardom and for the impact of her “little” film, who at the same time was trying to make sense of a bizarre, strained relationship with a taciturn man who was sexy as hell.

I can’t help but wonder how Harrison Ford feels about Fisher’s revelations (and I haven’t looked that hard, but I don’t recall seeing any reactions from him). I guess after 40 years, it’s not exactly earth-shattering, especially as Ford is no longer married to the woman he was married to at the time. I suppose too that they’ve been sharing each others’ orbits on the Star Wars circuit for so long that it all must feel like ancient history by now.

Carrie Fisher is a funny, open writer who isn’t afraid to show her true, flawed face. I had a great time reading The Princess Diarist. It’s a quick read, and maybe isn’t exactly deep, but it kept me entertained and gave me yet another way to think about the Star Wars cultural phenomenon and what it might have meant to be a part of it all from the beginning.

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The details:

Title: The Princess Diarist
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Publication date: October 18, 2016
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: Library

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Princess Diarist

  1. I was initially super interested in this one but was really put-off by the Harrison Ford revelation. Granted, as you said, he’s not married to that lady anymore but it just seemed kind of unnecessary after that much time to make a fuss about it? I read an interview with Fisher that said she warned Ford that the information was going in her book and he responded with humor but didn’t seem like he was much too happy about it… Based on your review though, this does sound enjoyable and I still might have to check it out. 🙂

    • It really is a fun and interesting read — and in a weird way, since she’s writing about events from 40 years ago, it doesn’t seem all that intrusive either.

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