Tuesday, February 6

The Princess Diarist

Hi all! So far, so on-time: I have my first book recommendation of the year! That being said, truth must be told-- I haven't read this one. I've been listening to the audiobook on the way to work and it's been the absolute perfect remedy for January Blues.

Carrie Fisher was, and is, a great inspiration to me. Her image is so vivid to me that it seems impossible to talk about her in the past tense. I don't know about you, but it's difficult to imagine that many role models from the 21st Century that are quite so complex and engaging. Intelligent and charming. Hilarious and humble. Carrie was all those things and fortunately, naturally, she was also a gifted author.

'The Princess Diarist' is just one of many successful books she penned in her lifetime, though perhaps arguably one of the most sensational. It's in The Princess Diarist that she reveals her affair with Harrison Ford on the set of the first Star Wars many moons ago. In typical Carrie fashion it's both a hysterical and heartbreaking retelling. She describes their affair in real terms: she took articulated steps to appear aloof and experienced and Harrison had the misfortunate to fall for it. The hot-poker recoil when the truth comes out is such a stinger you wonder how she didn't fling herself into the nearest Dagobah swamp. She was 19 and Harrison was 33, with a wife and two children. "I loved him," she says. "And he allowed it. That's as close a reckoning as I can muster".

Gut-wrenching revelations aside, Carrie's writing is never self-pitying. It's reflective. She muses on the highs and lows of hiding love in the limelight. "If I couldn't have predicted Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit," she says, "how could I have predicted that the stars of Star Wars would find themselves in bed together?"

She tells things like they were, and even goes so far as to share diary entries from that bygone time. The entries are perfectly read with true sincerity by her daughter Billie Lourd. Written by Carrie before she hit her twenties, the entries are a kind of abstract poetic composition of snippets of nursery rhymes, expletives, and classic show tunes: "he ate all my porridge, sat in my chair, slept in my bed, washed himself into my hair," reads Billie, like if Tracey Emin met Roald Dahl. From the perspective of someone that isn't nineteen any more, they all seem to say, ultimately, ouch.

She also talks about, of course, what else, Star Wars. It's the backdrop for her star-crossed non-romance. It's her coming-of-age. It both fulfilled and perplexed her. "If I'd known about all the masturbating I would generate" quoths Carrie, "well, that would've been extraordinarily weird from many angles and I'm glad it didn't come up, as it were".

Ultimately, an on-set love affair isn't all that unusual. But Star Wars; the movie, the phenomenon, was unusual. Carrie was unusual. And so the retelling is anything but usual. Listening to her raspy, nasal voice telling the story of her first ever movie Shampoo, takes you back with her. Her usual pithy turn of phrase cuts through prose with the burning intensity of a light saber.

If you like: Hollywood true stories, you will like this. If you like Star Wars, you will like this. If you don't like Star Wars, you will like this. If you thought this would be a highly intellectual book review (firstly, why did you think that) then I'm sorry to disappoint. There's a point in the (audio)book where Carrie waxes lyrical about a fantasy future where she and Harrison ride off into the sunset "and astonish everyone by remaining together for the rest of whoever died first's life". It's another stinger. I clearly am not on hang-out terms with Harrison Ford, but I imagine it would be hard to forget someone like Carrie, summer fling or not. Regrets or not. I would imagine not.

Driving to work with The Princess Diarist on the radio kind of felt like when you're allowed to have a  friend visit after school, but they shout out the car window on the way home in a way your mother would not stand for. Eyebrows raise all round, but passers by heckle back cheerfully. It's that sort of wildness that you want to get on board with.

It's ideal bedtime reading: taking you back to a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away: Hollywood in the seventies. Or do what I did, relish in hearing Carrie's arsenic-wit aloud, and take her in the car with you. I feel like she would want to come along for the ride.

Speak soon!

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