Written by Carrie Fisher
Audiobook read by carrie fisher, billie lourd
Published by Blue Rider Press on October 18th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs, Popular Culture
The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.
When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.
Carrie Fisher was on tour promoting her last book, The Princess Diarist, when she suffered the cardiac episode that led to her death. This was her third memoir, built around the journal she kept while filming the original Star Wars. I started listening to the audiobook in early December. I set it aside when Bruce Springsteen’s memoir came along. At the time, I wasn’t sure I’d go back and finish it. Then Carrie Fisher died. I not only returned to finish The Princess Diarist, I bought her two earlier memoirs and read them too.
Tales from Carrie Fisher’s Hollywood
Fisher’s first memoir, Wishful Drinking, grew out of her one-woman show of the same name. It was Fisher’s first foray into nonfiction after nearly two decades as a novelist and screenwriter. After years of struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, she started electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment). ECT helped Fisher’s mental health but hurt her memory, inspiring her to start documenting. Perhaps because it began as a performance piece, Wishful Drinking is largely anecdotal and occasionally repetitive. It’s also a very funny, very specific account of growing up in Hollywood and unexpectedly becoming the face of one of the best-known characters in movie history.
Fisher’s second memoir, Shockaholic, covers some of the same ground as Wishful Drinking, but it goes deeper. It’s still funny, but it’s more revealing and feels emotionally braver. Reading all of these books in audio, I was struck by the literal difference in Fisher’s voice between recording Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic. This was probably another effect of ECT. On her first memoir, she still sounded like Princess Leia, just older. By the second, her voice had acquired the rasp and change in pitch familiar from her talk-show appearances during the last few years.
The Princess Diarist
Both of Fisher’s earlier memoirs gave space to Star Wars, of course, but it’s the focus of her last one. Fisher was just 19 when she was cast as Princess Leia and went to England to spend three months making the movie that would change pop culture forever. (It’s probably a good thing no one involved had any idea, going in, that this would happen.) She was already a journaler by then, so naturally, she kept a diary during the shoot. She found the long-forgotten notebook in a box a couple of years ago. It became the basis for The Princess Diarist, but it makes up a surprisingly small portion of the book.
And that may be just as well. The diary is a 19-year-old’s journal, complete with poetry. It’s short on behind-the-scenes details from the set. (If that’s your thing, look to another Cary and his Inconceivable Tales From the Making of “The Princess Bride”.) However, it’s rich in the emotional experiences and impressions of a young woman having an affair with her older married co-star. Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd reads the diary on the audiobook; her younger voice is more appropriate to the material than Fisher’s own.
Fisher fleshes out the diary in the chapters leading up to it and follows it with reflections on how Star Wars changed her life. In some ways, The Princess Diarist is, in some ways, the story of Fisher’s relationship with Princess Leia. She will appear in that role for the final time in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (December 2017).
Carrie Fisher was an actor and a writer born and raised in Hollywood, She was a sharp observer and a fearless truth-teller, She died suddenly, and too soon, on December 27, 2016. For two-thirds of her life, she was a princess–and as a princess, she will live on as an icon.
I liked Carrie Fisher and I loved Princess Leia. I’ll miss them both. If you’d like to spend a little more time with them, all three of Fisher’s memoirs are quick reads, and you should let her read them all to you in audiobook.