“If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond, I shall be posthumously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing.”
There’s an unintentional poignancy to The Princess Diarist in Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing. Every page of the – fairly short – memoir prompts you to reflect that these words are written by a dead woman. You have to wonder whether, if she had been imbued with some celestial scholarship and been made aware of her moira, she would have been as forthcoming. Would she have been more forthcoming? Would the book have been published at all? Who knows – but thank goodness that it was. It’s very hard to put down The Princess Diarist, a memoir absolutely crackling with witticism and nostalgia for a time and an age long, long gone, a fact which Fisher ruminates on repeatedly throughout the book (and, seemingly, throughout her life).
Rather than dig deep into matters, Fisher opts for references littered across her memoirs, peppering the recollections and analyses of her life. We learn that she is somewhat envious of Princess Leia, who is forever ingrained upon celluloid, capturing a Carrie Fisher who is gone and never coming back: a young woman. We read about how Fisher has attempted to grapple with this; can she embrace Leia, her most iconic role, whilst also coming to terms with her own ageing and fundamental separation from this fictional character?
Perhaps others’ experience was different, but I did not come away with a comprehensive understanding of Fisher’s apparent imposter syndrome with regard to Leia, and I think that was the point. She offers enough of the meat for us to understand, yet not enough to comprehend. Like the Minerva she always was, Fisher keeps the juiciest stuff hidden behind the curtain, just as we beg for more tantalising information. Ever the performer.
That is not to say that The Princess Diarist is lacking. Much of it comprises of her relationship with Harrison Ford, and how she – 19 years old at the time – navigated the fact that this considerably older hunk was having an affair with her. It’s intense and passionate and intoxicating in the way only young love can achieve, adding more layers of seismic importance to the production of Star Wars: not only was history being made for western culture, but also for Carrie Fisher herself.
It’s safe to say this wasn’t the healthiest of relationships, as it inspired a period of seeming utter devotion and fascination from Fisher to Ford, and a seeming lack of reciprocity from him. Then again, maybe there was reciprocation, but he just didn’t know how to show it. One of Ford’s defining characteristics (which Fisher very much delves into in the book) is his monosyllabism and permanent state of deadpan.
I don’t know if others felt this way, but the recollections of their love, and the poems she wrote at the time, made me feel sad. Sad that Carrie had to go through a trial by fire of relationships, and felt so bewildered and confused. Yet, it’s always the testing times that shape character. I doubt anyone could disagree with the statement that Carrie Fisher was a tough fucking woman. Well, perhaps everyone except her. She’d dismiss it in public, but deep down she’d be grinning to herself knowing it to be true.
I cannot recommend The Princess Diarist hard enough. It is essential reading for anyone with even a mild interest in Star Wars; on a pure fan level, the sections where she dismissively refers to the Prequel Trilogy as “the ones we weren’t in” was quite fun. It is also relatively quick read, yet you gain such unparalleled insight into Carrie and her life that you come away feeling as if you knew her. Or, maybe that’s just what she wanted us to think, and in reality, she was nothing like this. And we’ll never know! Gah. Come back Carrie. You’re our only hope.