Carrie Fisher has done an excellent job of reinventing herself, evolving from ingenue actress to tell-it-like-it-is writer and humorist. And she has a lot to say, mostly about her odd but compelling life — enough to add a Part 2 to her memoirs.
"Shockaholic" follows 2009's "Wishful Drinking," a best-seller that Fisher also turned into a one-woman show. The title is a clue to the reason Fisher says she wrote the book; a few years ago she started undergoing electroconvulsive therapy to treat depression. The treatment, formerly known as electroshock therapy, has improved, although it's still controversial and typically only used when all other treatment methods have failed.
One of the side effects is memory loss, and this, Fisher says, is the impetus for the book — she wants to write things down before she forgets them. And while she's writing it down, why not publish it?
Fisher deserves praise for being up front about the therapy — although she has certainly been open about her depression and bipolar disorder. She details the not-so-horrific treatment and describes the result: "And whereas before my brain had felt as though it was set in cement, leaving me ... I don't know ... kind of stuck, the ECT blasted my Hoover Dam head wide open, moving the immovable."
She adds that it did for her what anti-depression meds could not. Fisher says she's on "tune-up" maintenance now, getting the therapy whenever the shadow of depression starts to darken her psyche.
With this as a jumping-off point, she mines her past for engaging stories, jumping tangentially from one to another with perhaps no real plan in mind. We hear about Fisher's group date with former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and a pre-second-marriage Ted Kennedy in which the booze flowed and Kennedy tried to intimidate her — but, newly sober, she was up for the challenge and held her own.
About her relationship with Michael Jackson, she has lots to say. Her attitude toward him seems to be part sympathy, part bemused onlooker at the questionable behavior of his hangers-on.
Perhaps it's because they shared that rare phenomenon of early fame that Fisher gives Jackson something of a pass for his bizarre behavior. We may never know what secrets Jackson kept, but Fisher lends an interesting, albeit gloomy insight into how ultimately lonely his life may have been.
Fisher also details how and why she decided to forge a relationship with her father, Eddie Fisher, before his death in 2010. They were estranged for most of their lives, but she ultimately reached out to him near the end of his life, hoping to begin to know the man who was charming but hardly around.
She was savvy enough to understand that with absent, egocentric parents it's often the children who have to do the outreach, and do so with no guarantee of a happy ending. She got one, though, in becoming his caretaker, his parent. That, she says, was OK.
By the time we get to how she and Elizabeth Taylor ultimately became chummy — and how Taylor and Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, made peace and became friends — you realize that these loosely woven stories about the underbelly of celebrity aren't haphazard at all.
By Carrie Fisher
Simon & Schuster, 176 pages, $22Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun