Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Published in 2008
Genre: Autobiography, memoir, humor
“So I am fifty-two years old.”
Many people around the world felt waves of sorrow and grief for Carrie Fisher in the wake of her death last December. It is a strange thing to read a memoir by a deceased person in which they make a joke about their eventual death, but it isn’t all doom and gloom in Wishful Drinking. This autobiography gives the reader a glimpse into the unreal world of a member of Hollywood royalty while simultaneously showcasing Fisher’s quick wit.
The book begins with an introduction explaining that it was written after Fisher underwent sessions of electroconvulsive therapy; some of her memories were missing as a side-effect of the treatment, so she had to rediscover who she was. After learning about her past-self as though she were uncovering the history of another person, she developed a stage act with Joshua Ravetch that was eventually adapted into this book.
As with most autobiographies, Wishful Drinking begins by detailing Fisher’s family and origins. She was the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds (most famous for Singin’ in the Rain (1952)) and singer Eddie Fisher; she had (really not a fan of writing this in past tense) one brother, Todd, who was named after their father’s best friend (whose widow, Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie slept with).
Though they were Hollywood’s “it” couple, Fisher’s parents embodied opposite ends of the parental spectrum; her mother was present and close while her father was distant and often absent. There are family photos in the book that illustrate and establish relationships, which helps when explaining Fisher’s multiple marriages and those of her parents.
Fisher also explores her bipolar disorder and divulges details of her time in rehab for alcohol and drugs. She approaches these anecdotes with jokes and a lighthearted whimsy, but it is with the knowledge that they were necessary for her to get better and be able to cope with the issues in her life. She accepts her addictions and personality rather than running from them or denying their existence as a part of who she is. There is an attitude of, “Yeah, sometimes I did a lot of pills and smoked a lot of dope to deal with stuff in my life. This is something I did. I liked to party, and now I don’t. Any questions?”
She writes with the wisdom of one looking in retrospect and is unabashedly honest, often taking pot shots at herself or following lines of thought to their logical, if off-color, ends. This method of semi-stream of consciousness shows her attention span and how her thoughts spiral from one into another. Her voice permeates the book, often blunt with little care of offending the reader. The book also carries a conversational tone; her narration often addresses the reader as if she were having a conversation with them in real time. The topics also jump around a bit within sections, meaning the chapter doesn’t always end with subject heading in mind.
This book is short; clocking in at 156 total pages, excluding the acknowledgements at end of the book, it makes for an entertaining yet truncated tale. The subject matter of the book also touches on her start in acting, Star Wars, and some of her relationships. I would have liked more information, but this is a book written by Fisher to emulate how she was as a person as well as an adaptation of a stage show.
Fisher ties the ending together with a tongue twister she referenced earlier in the book and, in doing so, shows her penchant for identifying the cyclical aspects of life and using them as a literary device in her writing. Wishful Drinking was a blast to read and definitely made me want to look into some of her other written work. The waking world lost a wonderful human being when she passed away, but at least her words and influential body of work remain for us to enjoy.
Verdict: 3 brutally honest autobiographies out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of Star Wars, fans of Princess Leia, those who want to learn more about Carrie Fisher in her own words, anyone living with a mental illness who feels that it inhibits or lessens them as people, those who have struggled with addiction, and you!
Not recommended for: Children (adult language is present throughout), people easily offended, those who dislike Hollywood royalty and their role in Carrie Fisher’s life, those who aren’t fans of Princess Leia (a.k.a. liars), or those who want to remember Carrie Fisher as a famous fictional character she played rather than who she really was as a person.