Happy Monday readers!! I don’t know about you, but I’m still having trouble realizing that we are nearly halfway through September and more than two-thirds of the way into this year. On top of that, though I knew that I was about a month and a half behind in sharing a discussion post for our latest GeekyNerdy Book Club read, I didn’t realize that I had chosen Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic almost three months ago!
As you may remember, when I chose Shockaholic, I did so because I realized that I didn’t actually know all that much about Fisher, outside of her role as Princess/General Leia in the Star Wars films. I generally knew of her, but there was very little that I could actually say about the woman herself.
I was particularly intrigued by her second memoir because the blurb suggested that it moved past her experiences filming George Lucas’s “space opera.” Though it described the book as covering “a broad range of topics – from never-before-heard tales of Hollywood gossip to outrageous moments of celebrity desperation; from alcoholism to illegal drug use; from the familial relationships of Hollywood royalty to scandalous run-ins with noteworthy politicians; from shock therapy to talk therapy,” I went into the book expecting it to spend more time on Fisher’s struggles with mental illness. I also think that I expected it to be more of a typical memoir, with a chronological flow.
To be fair to Fisher, she does spend much of the opening chapters talking about her decision to try electroshock therapy and all of the good, and bad, it did for her. And she does speak very candidly about this, if at times repetitively. I found her continued references to ECT’s effects on her memory particularly grating after a while. I know that this memory loss was, ostensibly, her reason for writing the book, but she could have made the point just once or twice.
Because I expected the book to be a more straightforward dissection of Fisher’s life, I left it feeling like I was glad to have read it, but knowing that I wasn’t going to be adding a copy to my bookshelves. In looking over my notes though, it’s clear that I got a little more out of it than I thought.
For instance, her comments in chapter three about having never signed a contract saying that she wouldn’t change (i.e., age) helped me let go of some personal baggage that I’d been carrying around for a while. And as someone who is currently seeing a therapist, I found her remark about sanity coming with a heavy price to be extremely poignant.
Her insightful reflections on Michael Jackson’s fame – how he was someone to other people before he even knew himself and “transcended humanness” – provided me with a new perspective on the King of Pop and the intensity of the spotlight in which he lived. Similarly, her comments about her parents being personas, not people, echoed in my head as I, along with most of the world, mourned the separation of actors Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. As Heather Schwedel noted for Slate, we can never really know what goes on in a celebrity relationship, so we end up loving the idea of them more than anything else.
And maybe that was some of my problem with Shockaholic; it didn’t quite match the idea of Fisher or the book that I had in my head. But though it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, I did gain a greater appreciation for why her fans loved her so much. Fisher recognized and appreciated her role in pop culture, but she wasn’t consumed by it. She saw acting as a job and was fully aware that the limelight could, and probably would, fade. And she had no real pretense about anything. Though she had plenty of room for demons, Carrie Fisher was indeed self-possessed.