Book: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
“When I was younger, starting at about four, other children would ask me what it was like to be a movie star’s daughter. Once I was a little older and understood, to a certain extent, the nature of what celebrity meant, I would say, compared to what? When I wasn’t a movie star’s daughter? When I lived with my normal, non-show business family, the Regulars (Patty and Lowell Regular of Scottsdale, Arizona)? All I’ve ever known is this sort of hot-house-plant existence, and I could tell from watching how normal people lived — normal people as depicted by Hollywood and burned into our consciousness — I understood that my life was unusual. … It was the only reality I knew, but compared to other folks—both on television and off — it eventually struck me as a little surreal, too. And eventually, too, I understood that my version of reality had a tendency to set me apart from others. And when you’re young you want to fit in. (Hell, I still want to fit in with certain humans, but as you get older you get a little more discriminating.) Well, my parents were professionally committed to sticking out, so all too frequently I found myself sticking out right along with them.”
“My entire existence could be summed up in one phrase, and that is: if my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable,” writes actress Carrie Fisher, capturing the gist of Wishful Drinking, her memoir that sees her take a witty look at the people and incidents that shaped her life.
Based on her one-woman stage show, the book offers the post-electroshock therapy recollection of the actress’s journey, from being the product of “Hollywood inbreeding” — she is the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher (who left his wife for his best friend Mike Todd’s widow Elizabeth Taylor) — “think of Eddie as Brad Pitt and Debbie as Jennifer Aniston and Elizabeth as Angelina Jolie,” Carrie states helpfully), to her role in Star Wars and its repercussions — the immense success of the film assured that she would forever be identified as Princess Leia — and beyond.
The writer uses her caustic wit to discuss topics like being raised in the midst of the celebrity lifestyle, her marriage to Paul Simon and relationship with Bryan Lourd (with whom she has a daughter), and her struggle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. Anecdotes from her life are weaved into the narrative, but while the book touches up on a lot of areas, it does not provide a detailed discussion of many (if not most) of them, and the focus is more on relaying the events in an amusing manner than on coming up with a proper, full-length memoir. Additionally, the book reads like stand-up comedy, and at times what seems missing is the delivery; some of the humour must’ve surely translated better in the show it is adapted from.
Overall, Wishful Drinking is an offbeat look at the life of someone who was born into Hollywood royalty, went on to portray an iconic character, and is trying to deal with her many issues. It’s irreverent, self-deprecating, and humorous, albeit with an underlying sadness. Is it candid? Yes. Is it revelatory? Not particularly. Still, the book makes for a quick, mostly fun read, and you’re likely to enjoy it, especially if you’re a Carrie Fisher fan, although those expecting a thorough, full-length autobiography are likely to be disappointed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.