The girl in the metal bikini has grown up, gone crazy and written a book about it. Fisher has actually written several books about her unusual life. Shockaholic (Simon & Schuster, $22), her latest, is the best one yet. It‘s an “anecdotal memoir,” in which the author riffs on a variety of topics. Being famous. Her charismatic father. Her extravagant, flatulent stepfather. The real Michael Jackson. Electroshock therapy. And of course, that metal bikini.
I first became aware of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars. I loved her feisty, competent, wise-cracking, getting-the-job-done persona. I loved her even more in the third film, when she seemed just as miserable about wearing that stupid metallic bathing suit as she was about being chained to Jabba the Hutt.
Fisher’s first transparently autobiographical novel was called Postcards From The Edge. All her books could be called the same thing. Fisher is crazy and is totally upfront about it. Many people try to keep their mental problems a secret, or at least downplay them. Fisher leads with hers, and I love her for it.
Fisher doesn’t hide the fact that she’s bipolar and depressive. Instead, she shares everything with us. What being crazy is like, what the consequences of her particular form of crazy have been, and what she’s done about it. She describes how and why she finally turned to electroshock therapy. Then she fills us in on how it works and what it feels like: “You light up the dark and gloomy skies behind your forehead.”
Reading Shockaholic is like having lunch with a brilliant, self-absorbed, wise-cracking friend who talks nonstop about herself—but she’s so funny and her life is so fascinating that you hang on every word. This is a woman who enjoyed an intimate birthday party with Michael Jackson (who got her to do the “Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi” hologram speech for his kids), was pushed fully clothed into a swimming pool by Liz Taylor (after which they became the best of friends), did mountains of coke with her famous father, and who once put a boorish Ted Kennedy in his place by singing him a Broadway show tune in a crowded restaurant. (Read this book and you’ll learn what a sexist schmuck this elder statesman could be.)
Fisher writes about her famous family and friends with sympathy and insight. She’s harder on herself, especially when she writes about how her addictions undermined her ability to be a good parent. “I am not a stupid person,” she writes. “I’m a fairly intelligent person who does stupid things. Incredibly stupid things. I can’t defend it. I can explain it until the end of time, but that still doesn’t make it in any way excusable, especially when you factor in the impact it had on my daughter (along with anyone else in my bonkers life who gave a shit about me).”
Fisher devotes many pages to her fraught relationship with her own impossible father. Reading about the evolution of their relationship makes Shockaholic rather more moving than Fisher’s previous books. She never drops the schtick (it’s so hard-wired that she probably cracks jokes in her sleep), but the real pain (and the hard-won love and acceptance she is finally able to get to) comes through.
Carrie Fisher is a born entertainer. “I never went into show business,” she writes. “It surrounded me from my first breath.” Shockaholicwill entertain you. It may also teach you something about coping with addiction and mental problems. And you’ll learn exactly what show tune to respond with, the next time some jerk tries to put you down with a tasteless, offensive remark while at dinner in a fancy restaurant.