Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.-Carrie Fisher

Like any red-blooded American male, I became instantly aware of Carrie Fisher at the tender age of 10 after seeing her in the infamous metal bikini  she wore in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  I even had a cardboard cutout of her in my room during my adolescence.  Kicks the creep factor up a notch, doesn't it? Anyway, in 2008 I discovered that Carrie Fisher was more than just Princess Leia.  She is in fact an incredible writer with four novels (Postcards from the Edge, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful) and now this autobiography which documents her all too eventful life.

Wishful Drinking started off as a stage show starring the manic Fisher in which she entertained fans with stories of her celebrity parents (Debbie Reynolds and the late Eddie Fisher), a gay husband who forgot to tell her he was gay--she forgot to notice, and the effects of drug addiction and manic depression. The show and book are an attempt to recapture events of her life she forgot after undergoing Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) which she has partaken of repeatedly in order to control her manic depression.  Fisher considers herself more or less cured now, but the initial round of treatments wiped three months of her life from her memory.

There is nothing off limits in this book.  Fisher opens up about failed marriages, a daughter she fears she has scarred for life, a larger than life mother, and an absent father.  Fisher describes stints in rehab and waking up with a dead man in her bed.  No really, it happened.  One of the scariest/funniest stories in the book is when she recalls being put in the psych ward of a hospital after being taken off all her medication.  It caused her to stay awake for six days and by the end of the sixth day Fisher believed that everything she saw on television was happening to her in real life.  At least, as real as you can get when you're Carrie Fisher.

Over the years, Fisher has been criticized for her acting abilities, or lack thereof, which she addresses frankly in the book.  However, whatever she didn't get in the acting department she more than makes up for in her incredible storytelling ability.  There is nothing forced, trite, or boring to be found here.  The book is funny yet insightful and Fisher is painfully honest about her addictions and mental illness.

I liked this book so much that I also listened to the audiobook which is read by Fisher.  Honestly, it's better with Fisher reading than doing it yourself.  It's obvious why Wishful Drinking was so successful as a stage show.  Fisher tells the story as if she's having a conversation with you over cigarettes and oxycontin.

Anyone looking for good writing, a laugh, or a better understanding of addiction and mental health issues will enjoy this book.  You don't have to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy this book.  Just a fan of the emotionally disturbed--which, if you're friends with me, then you already are.

1 comment:

  1. Good God, Patrick. Now I've gotta put this on my list too. Have you seen "When Harry Met Sally" with her? If not I'll lend it to you.