Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

"There's no room for demons when you're self-possessed."-Carrie Fisher

Now I know what you’re thinking, “How can Carrie Fisher write two memoirs in three years?!?  Isn’t she tired of talking about herself?  Is she doing it for the money?”  I’m sure the latter factors into the equation somewhere, but even if Fisher is her own favorite subject, she certainly doesn’t make herself look like a glamorous Hollywood celebrity.  In fact, she often says that she hopes people will feel better about their own lives once they read about hers.  If that’s the case, then she’s certainly giving people a lot of material to work with.

It’s no secret that I bow down to Carrie Fisher and that brilliant filled-to-the-brim brain of hers.  So this slim little volume titled Shockaholic was an early Christmas present to myself.  Like Wishful Drinking this book documents Fisher’s encounters with celebrities, drug abuse, and shock therapy.  However, rather than focusing on events such as rehab and filming Star Wars, as she did in Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic explores relationships with important people from Fisher’s past.  Ultimately though, Fisher’s latest creation is more or less a sequel to Wishful Drinking.  Each chapter in the new book focuses on a different influential person in Fisher’s life: starting with herself.  She kicks off things by informing us that yes, she is writing another book about herself, but hopes that by the end you’ll say, “Wow. I realize for the first time that I need to love and respect others before I can truly love myself.  And by ‘others,’ for the most part, I mean Carrie Fisher.”

For someone who struggles with depression, it’s enlightening to read how Fisher copes with her mental illness.  Her solution has been to undergo Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), better known as “shock therapy.”  With nowhere to go but down, ECT was Fisher’s last option, and although the treatments do wipe out portions of her memory, she assures readers that it’s well worth it.  She even encourages us to try it for ourselves saying, “Do it before you don’t have a mind to change.”

After talking about herself, Fisher moves on to celebrity encounters and family dysfunction.  Some stories are funny, some...not so much.  One of the stranger tales is Fisher ending up on a double date with former human Ted Kennedy who repeatedly attempted to humiliate Fisher in front of everyone at their table.  She later found out that this bullying was one of the senator’s party tricks, and a fellow guest told Fisher years later that she was the only person to stand up to Uncle Teddy.  I know that Senator Kennedy has been sainted since his death, but Carrie Fisher helps us remember what a bastard he really was.

Moving right along, Fisher also reveals that she was a guest at Michael Jackson’s last Christmas.  Michael Jackson is another man who became a joke late in life but managed to be canonized after death.  However, Fisher assures us that Jackson really was a kind man, but deeply troubled by his fame and lack of childhood.  Fisher’s memories of Jackson present some of the books more tender moments and helped me to rethink some of my opinions of the late singer.

The final portion of Shockaholic explores the overwhelmingly complex relationship between Fisher and her father, Eddie Fisher, who left Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor and was generally absent for the majority of Fisher’s formative years.  Like most fathers and daughters, Carrie and Eddie began building a relationship based on drug use.  They would get high together, and have these rollicking good benders until Eddie would fall off the edge of the world again.  When Eddie became ill and eventually bedridden in his later years, Fisher took care of her father even though they both knew he didn’t deserve it.  You really get a sense of how much Fisher valued these years with her dad, and how much she still struggles with his passing which took place this September.

Overall, Shockaholic is short but sweet.  You can read it in a day, get a few laughs, and maybe come away a little more accepting of others.  Oh, and on a side note, did you see the picture in the top corner?  Yeah, that’s me with Carrie Fisher!  I wanted to mention that I met her when she came to perform the stage version of Wishful Drinking in Chicago last month.  She signed my copy of Postcards from the Edge at the stage door (I’m going to have the pen she used mounted in a gilt display case once I gather the funds), and was really just a delightful person.  So go out and buy Shockaholic and maybe we can all go for some good old fashioned ECT.  Just in time for the holidays!