I guess it would have been inappropriate anyway had Carrie Fisher's first-ever memoir—the hilariously titled and jacketed Wishful Drinking (Simon & Schuster, $21)—been addictive reading considering it's largely about her intragalactic battles with bipolar disorder, depression, alcohol and drugs. But did it have to be such a cheap, uneven, temporary high? It's like trying pot for the first time only to discover it gives you a headache.
I'm a fan of Fisher's dry, self-deprecating wit, and Postcards From The Edge alone, albeit fiction, certainly hinted that she would have a helluva memoir or three in her. Instead, Wishful Drinking is a criminally slight (159 pages including photos, all in huge font) hint at what might have been had she managed to bang this out before shock treatment. Yes, Fisher's mental struggles are well known, but I was surprised to discover she'd undergone electroconvulsive therapy and that it had seriously affected her memory. Her outgoing message asks for callers' names, numbers and any helpful descriptions in case she's forgotten them entirely.
I guess this is the ultimate in plausible deniability in case anyone comes forward to suggest her autobiography is made up...it might be, and she wouldn't even know it.
The book is not as well written as her past efforts, is full of editing errors (come on, it's basically an essay, couldn't S&S have read this once or twice?) and suffers from repetition of key facts and even some jokes (such as the very funny—the first time—and insightful observation that her parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher were the Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt of their day, with Liz Taylor as Angelina Jolie).
As big of a let-down as this is, there are some juicy passages, including her laugh-to-keep-from-crying comments about the strange, sad death of gay Republican operative Greg Stevens, her BFF, in her bed ("He didn't just die in his sleep, he died in mine."). Describing him, she says:
"But Greg wasn't a Republican like a person who votes to the right. No, he was a Republican like I was Princess Leia. He was a Republican by profession..."
The book has some worthwhile Reynolds rap.
This turned me off; what a bizarre rationalization. The man was nation-building ("He ran presidential campaigns in unstable countries—like Republicans like to do.") and helping to spread the right around so much it might be mistaken for the center, and yet...he was fun to party with so never mind all that?
[Small world: Jay Huguley was Stevens's lover (they met on the Bush/Quayle campaign), and he is now on Brothers & Sisters with Calista Flockhart, Harrison Star Wars Ford's life partner...]
Still, when an audience member at one of her shows asked her if she were naked with him at the time he died, Fisher's humor-as-defense-mechanism response doesn't fail to amuse: "I haven't been naked in fifteen years! I haven't even gone sleeveless in twenty!"
I was dying to read endless stories about Debbie Reynolds, who seems to have been playing herself on Will & Grace—whacky, lovable, frighteningly eccentric—and the stories that made the cut make the book, such as her airy request for Fisher to help conceal from the cops a prop gun with which her son had just accidentally shot himself or her sensible plan to have Cary Grant talk Fisher out of using LSD. (One of their talks was a mutual hatefest about Chevy Chase, with whom Fisher was making Under The Rainbow and who had publicly mimicked Grant for being gay. Which he was.)
Despite the stories, Fisher is largely complimentary toward her mom—she sees her as kooky, but she loves her and never complains about her so much as she holds her at arm's length and asks the reader, "Can you fuckin' believe her?? I know!"
She also adamantly refutes decades-old rumors that Reynolds is a dyke:
The bad part comes from Reynolds's consistently destructive choices in husband material—she's been ripped off more times than a Harlequin heroine's bodice.
But how can we trust Carrie's gaydar? She was married to and bore the child of gay agent Bryan Lourd (the subject of some fun lines).
Wishful Drinking is based on a one-woman show Fisher performs; based on the better parts of this slim volume and based on her recent, highly entertaining interview with Al Roker on The Today Show, I would recommend you see her live and skip this nearly lifeless cash-in.