The Honesty of Carrie Fisher


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Carrie Fisher in 1987.

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Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Oh, Carrie Fisher, gone way too soon. And now your mother, Debbie Reynolds. The startling loss this week of one of Hollywood’s great mother-daughter pairs was another blow in an unnerving year. You could call it a Hollywood ending, if by that you mean one that is larger and weirder than real life, and that tugs mightily at strong emotions.

A suggestion to grieving admirers: Make time for another viewing of “Singin’ in the Rain,” made when Ms. Reynolds was 19. Watch her becoming a star, easily holding her own against two older leading men.

But even though Ms. Fisher pulled off a strikingly similar feat — making an immortal movie at 19, with two male stars — there is a better way to honor her than by revisiting “Star Wars.”

Read her books. They are works where misery and brilliance commingle with wit, the creations of an actual person who had many layers and is worth getting to know, as opposed to Princess Leia, who has none and is not.

Anyone could have predicted that a little girl whose mom and dad were Ms. Reynolds and Eddie Fisher would grow up with an abundance of, let’s call them issues, and that these might lead to a life involving alcohol and drugs, and detox and rehab. All of which happened to Ms. Fisher, in profusion.

But who would have predicted that this product of Hollywood inbreeding (she called herself that) would have turned celebrity family dysfunction into such memorable writing? Her semi-autobiographical novel “Postcards From the Edge,” and memoirs like “Wishful Drinking” and “Shockaholic,” are hilarious, bluntly beautiful and deserve as much lasting recognition as her contributions to “Star Wars.”

You could liken Ms. Fisher to Dorothy Parker, and many have, though Parker’s work seems musty in comparison to Ms. Fisher’s, which hits like a fresh slap of weirdness. When she wrote about depression and addiction, she had a humaneness and directness that feel honest.

When she turned to shock therapy, it “punched the dark lights out of my depression,” she wrote. “ Your whole life you hear about this terrifying treatment that turns you into a vegetable, only to finally find out that it had all the charming qualities of no big deal. Sort of like getting your nails done, if your nails were in your cerebral cortex.”

Let others remember Ms. Fisher for her outer-space hairdos and wisecracks that were George Lucas’s dim idea of witty (“Would somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?”). Here’s to what she created on her own: her idiosyncratic way of writing about how she struggled with her mind, her memory, her weight.

“What I didn’t realize, back when I was this twenty-five-year-old pinup for geeks in that me myself and iconic metal bikini, was that I had signed an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the next thirty to forty years. Well, clearly I’ve broken that contract.”

Here’s to her dispatches from a Fisher-priceless family life: “My mother, who incidentally lives next door to me, she calls me to this day and says, ‘Hello, dear, this is your mother, Debbie.’ (As opposed to my mother Vladimir or Jean-Jacques.)”

And here’s to her honesty: “I heard someone once say we’re only as sick as our secrets,” Ms. Fisher wrote in “Wishful Drinking.” “If that’s true, then this book will go a long way to rendering me amazingly well.”

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