Memoir/Biography/Autobiography · Nonfiction

The Princess Diarist

“Who do I think I would’ve been if I hadn’t been Princess Leia? Am I Princess Leia, or is she me? Split the difference and you’d be closer to the truth.”

This is going to be a weird review to write, not because I’m unsure of how I felt, but because it it’s almost like I’m having to rate/review two different books at the same time. On the one hand, there are the actual “diaries” that Carrie Fisher kept while she was filming Star Wars, written years ago and published in their original form. On the other hand, there are her reflections back on that time, and on her current relationship with Star Wars, written by the Carrie Fisher of today. And thought both parts are important in making this book what is it, and I appreciate them in different (and mostly unequal) ways, I do have wildly different thoughts about the two parts.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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“I’m going to talk about the original diary entries first, since those are the titular pieces and thus, at least theoretically, the more important part. They showed up somewhere in the middle of the book (keep in mind that I listened to it as an audiobook, so I’m not sure exactly where in the middle it was), after an extensive introduction from Carrie that I’ll talk about later. They were also read by someone different, while the rest of the book was narrated by Carrie herself, which I thought was a nice touch. In any case, I truly enjoyed this part. It was such an interesting self-expression, a mix of poetry, sing-song-y blurbs, self-reflection, snippets of conversation, and general thoughts/feelings. It was all written with a very introspective feel and flow, soft and damning all at the same time. You could feel young Carrie’s confusion, insecurity, self-condemnation, and frustration all coming through. And her background in theater was very evident in the way she wrote and presented it all – it feels as if it’s written to be spoken and performed, polished and creative and expressive, as if it came out ready for its audience. For lack of a better (or more original) term, it came across as a very theatrical inner dialogue. Here are some quick examples for you to enjoy:

 “I wish I could go away somewhere but the only problem with that is that I’d have to go, too.” 

“I’ve washed that man right into my hair 
He’s sat in my chair and slept in my bed 
He’s eaten all my porridge and climbed inside my head”

“I think that if I could give a name to what I feel it would go away. Find the word that describes the feeling and say it over and over until it’s merely a sound.” 

“Thanks for the good times. Thank you for being so generous with what you have withheld. Thank you for being the snake in my grass, the thorn in my side, the pain in my ass, the knife in my back, the wrench in my works, the fly in my ointment. My Achilles’ heart. Caught in a whirlpool without an anchor, relaxing into it, calmly going under for one of many last times.” 

“Stop playing the part of the glib martyr. You’re just trying to make cyanide out of 7-Up.” 

“What’s the riddle?                                                                                                                                                                          Me talking so much                                                                                                                                                                   And saying so little” 

Perhaps parts of it were cheesy, perhaps parts were overdone, but I think the important thing was that when they were written, they were written for herself. No matter what your thoughts are on the way she wrote it, you have to recognize that this was not actually written with the goal of being presented to an audience, but as an outlet for herself. We are able to really get a glimpse into the Carrie of that time, the private self that she didn’t share with anyone. In that respect, this part of the book is an insight that cannot be critiqued in the way one would normally judge a published work.

On the other hand, there were the parts that current Carrie wrote, which I was somewhat less enamored of overall. To start, I was pretty fascinated. Carrie describes the major world (and entertainment) events of the time period in question, both the 70s in general and the specifics of 1976, and then gives us some background on her life growing up, her family, etc. I definitely learned some things here and, as I’ve been getting more into celebrity memoirs lately, I find the “how I got there” part fascinating, since it is so different for everyone. She also spends quite a lot of time giving us the details of her “affair” with Harrison Ford, something that heretofore had never been fully confirmed as more than rumor. And, as an avid (though not fanatical) Star Wars “fan” and a general admirer of Harrison Ford, I found myself  super interested in this part. I was [mostly embarrassingly] really into Fisher’s reflections on why it happened, how incompetent/nervous she felt around him (it’s so easy to forget how much younger and inexperienced she was – at acting and life in general – I mean she was only like 19 when everything started), and even the basic “what/how” details. So I liked this intro part and also recognize that it was very necessary for the reader, in order to really understand everything that was in her diary entries.

But then after the diary entries, I felt like things fell apart a little. I mean I know that the Star Wars universe and fandom that was created was absolutely unprecedented at the time (and pretty much still is, except for Harry Potter, at least in my personal belief/observation). Carrie was thrust into a position that, even with famous parents, there was no way to prepare for. And, as she self-proclaims, it wasn’t something she was wanting out of life anyways. Hearing how that affected her and how she felt about it was definitely thought-provoking. I giggled at some of her reflections on the hair thing, the metal bikini, the comments from fans she met, etc. However, I think that entire part just dragged on a little too long and was, perhaps, filled with a bit too much sarcasm. It was hard for me, listening, to follow at which points she was “quoting” things fans had said and at which points she was just narrating what her own thoughts and reflections – to the point that by the end I was starting to get a little annoyed. It also was fairly repetitive, by that point. I think she could have, and actually did, give her examples and make her points, in fairly short order…so it seemed to me that after the points were made, she was just beating a dead horse. Honestly, I totally understand (or empathize with, at least) the conflicted feelings she has towards Leia, the near impossibility to separating her real self and her Leia self, the wonderful and the terrible things the intense fandom provides her. But, I don’t know, her tone in the telling of it just made it less compelling for me. In any case, it’s frustrating that it ended like that, because up to that point it was super interesting and insightful and it sucks that the last impression was the most negative…

Regardless, if you are a fan of Star Wars, if Leia’s strong female presence affected your life in any positive way, I’d still recommend this read. The brief glimpse inside Carrie as she first played Leia is something that really did bring more dimension and life to both the actor and the character. And, as the tragedy of her death still looms in the recent past, it’s a perfect way to reflect back on this woman who brought so much to the lives of so many.”

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