Carrie Fisher's second life as a writer
Carrie Fisher reminded the world that she had a notable second career as a witty and candid writer when her latest memoir made headlines in November and revealed a 40-year-old secret.
In The Princess Diarist, based on diaries she kept at the time, Fisher came clean about a three-month-long affair she had at age 19 with married, older co-star Harrison Ford while filming the first Star Wars movie.
Fisher died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday.
In a *** (out of four star) review for USA TODAY, Brian Truitt described Princess Diarist as “funny and frequently touching.”
He called the revelation of the affair (which she wrote about at length) “an eye-opener for fans” and said Princess Diarist was proof that Fisher was “a gifted writer even at a young age.” There was, he wrote, “a lot going on between Princess Leia’s hair buns.”
Despite a People magazine story and all the headlines that followed, Princess Diarist, surprisingly, failed to make USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. (By Tuesday afternoon, the memoir had leapt to No. 1 on Amazon.)
Truitt wrote in his review: “Those looking for a tell-all won’t find one here — Fisher, now 60, keeps it pretty PG-13, so there’s no discussion of, say, Han Solo’s lightsaber. What she does instead in her signature style (with tangents and asides aplenty) when recollecting the ‘Carrison’ era is come clean about her emotions. She was pretty much in love at the time, but Ford’s unreadable, quiet, guy’s-guy persona drove her a bit crazy.”
The actress did have best sellers, beginning in 1987 with her first novel, Postcards From the Edge, a semi-autobiographical tale that made a big splash and then became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. (Fisher wrote the screenplay.) Postcards is the story of a young Hollywood actress named Suzanne Vale who's in drug rehab and her relationship with her overbearing mother (in real life, Debbie Reynolds).
The New York Times called the novel “at once harrowing and hilarious.” During an interview when the book was published, Fisher, then 30, said she had first been approached about writing a humorous memoir. Instead, her “material” from rehab evolved into fiction.
''It was an extreme situation I made funny to myself while going through it,'' she told The Times. ''That's when I need humor: when there's nothing funny. I was in the worst place I could be and not be dead.''
Fisher wrote more novels (The Best Awful, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma) and eventually decided sardonic memoirs were OK after all. Her druggie past and electroshock therapy all became game in Wishful Drinking (2008) and Shockaholic (2011).
She acknowledged that shock treatments caused some memory loss. "For all I know, they could have dressed me in a ball gown, surrounded me with dancing dolphins, and married me off to Rush Limbaugh," she wrote in Shockaholic.
For Fisher, writing openly about her real life, ironically, allowed her more artistic freedom, some critics found.
In a review of Wishful Drinking, Entertainment Weekly said: "Fisher’s voice is freer, now that she’s no longer hiding behind the coy scrim of calling her perky howls of pain 'novels' (as she did with Postcards From the Edge and The Best Awful)."
Three of Fisher's books made USA TODAY's best-seller list, which launched in fall 1993: Delusions of Grandma, which peaked at No. 122; The Best Awful (No. 135); and Wishful Drinking (No. 105).
Contributing: Mary Cadden