Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

The title of Carrie Fisher’s funny, sardonic little memoir is a bit misleading. Drinking seems to ha

The title of Carrie Fisher’s funny, sardonic little memoir is a bit misleading. Drinking seems to have been the least of her problems. Pills were more her thing, and for a while hallucinogens. As a teenager, she dropped so much acid that her parents called in the greatest LSD expert they knew: Cary Grant.

Her parents were Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, and that was part of the problem. They were the Jennifer and Brad of their day, the tabloids’ favorite couple, with Elizabeth Taylor, for whom Mr. Fisher left his wife and family, eventually taking on the role of Angelina, plusher and without the tattoos. “You might say I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding,” Ms. Fisher writes. “When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result.”

Though Ms. Fisher now lives next door to her mother, and is on good terms with her father, neither was much of a parent. He was too busy dating, getting married and having face-lifts. She meant well enough, but was first and last a performer. The great event of Ms. Fisher’s childhood was watching Mom enter one end of a room-size closet — the Church of Latter Day Debbie, her daughter called it — and come out the other powdered, sprayed and gowned, with better posture and a different accent. As a consequence of her upbringing, Ms. Fisher says, “I find that I don’t have what could be considered a conventional sense of reality.”

When the author was 15, Ms. Reynolds gave her a vibrator for Christmas, and also gave one to her own mother, who declined to use it for fear it would short out her pacemaker. Some years later, perhaps taking the inbreeding principle to extreme, Ms. Reynolds suggested that her daughter ought to have children with Richard Hamlett, Ms. Reynold’s last husband.

People in Hollywood really are different, we have to conclude, and there’s no reason to doubt Ms. Fisher when she says it’s no wonder she turned out as she did, both hyper and insecure. To make things worse, she suffers from bipolar disorder and all her life has shuttled between mood extremes. “I just have basically too much personality for one person and not quite enough for two,” she writes.

There was a brief, unhappy marriage to Paul Simon, she reminds us, and an affair with, among many others, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who said of their relationship, “It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” — a remark that Ms. Fisher thinks probably doomed his bid for the presidency.

The father of her daughter, the agent Bryan Lourd, left her for another man, prompting Ms. Reynolds to say: “You know, dear, we’ve had every sort of man in our family — we’ve had horse thieves and alcoholics and one-man bands — but this is our first homosexual!”

And of course there was George Lucas, who cast her as Princess Leia in “Star Wars” and made her a pinup girl for generations of geeky adolescents who gazed up in longing at their bedroom poster of Ms. Fisher in a metallic bikini, chained to giant slug.

“George Lucas ruined my life,” Ms. Fisher says, which doesn’t seem entirely fair. On the other hand, in a book full of weirdos, he emerges as possibly the strangest of all. He wouldn’t let Ms. Fisher wear a bra under her Princess Leia shift because, as he patiently explained to her, there is no underwear in space: according to Lucas-physics, if you were to wear a bra in a weightless environment, your bra would strangle you.

What her Hollywood upbringing doesn’t account for is Ms. Fisher’s manifest intelligence and adroit way with words. She is one of the rare inhabitants of La-La land who can actually write and has published four novels, the best of which, the semi-autobiographical “Postcards From the Edge,” became a prize-winning movie with a script by Ms. Fisher herself.

“Wishful Drinking,” however, grew out of a one-woman standup act, and it shows. The book is pretty slight, padded out with big type, extra space between the lines and some family photographs, and it displays at times an almost antic need to entertain. The paragraphs are short, and the jokes — the puns, the wisecracks, the deadpan one-liners — come rattling along at the rate of one every other sentence or so.

It’s not entirely clear whose attention span is being catered to here: the reader’s or Ms. Fisher’s. At the beginning of the book she explains that she has undergone electroconvulsive shock therapy, which has erased some of her memory, and one of the organizing conceits of “Wishful Drinking” is that she is trying to get reacquainted with herself.

Here, she writes, is what the message on her answering machine says: “Hello and welcome to Carrie’s voice mail. Due to recent electroconvulsive therapy, please pay close attention to the following options. Leave your name, number and a brief history as to how Carrie knows you, and she’ll get back to you if this jogs her memory.” She’s kidding, but a more serious anxiety — a wish to assert that she’s still here, still smart, still funny — may explain the book’s glitter-eyed, Ancient Mariner quality, the way it buttonholes you and, desperate to please, wrings laughs from the story of Ms. Fisher’s strange, off-the-wall journey.

She won’t let you feel sorry for her, which is greatly to her credit in this age of needy, tell-all celebrity memoirs, but neither can she relax or stop joking. She writes: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” But her book is sometimes like a smile so forced it must hurt.

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