It’s truly an American malady to admire/resent those who are to the “manor born,” so to speak, whether by being the offspring of adults who are rich or famous, or both. And so it goes with Carrie Fisher, the famous and rich offspring of other rich and famous people, Singing in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds and ’50s/’60s crooner Eddie Fisher. She could be known for being a child caught in the middle of one of Hollywood’s most enduring scandals: the dumping of saintly Debbie for the wicked vixen Elizabeth Taylor by Eddie, in boyish fervor after the death of his friend, Mike Todd (who had been, at the time of his demise in a plane crash, Elizabeth’s husband).
"SHOCKAHOLIC is shocking, but it’s the emotional depths that are charged under the therapy’s push that really makes this an interesting read."
But Fisher was not content to be attached to this scandal (or some of the others that involved her family, whether it be drugs or losing whole fortunes). Instead, she made a whole new set of scandals all her own. And SHOCKAHOLIC is the end result of a lifetime of substance abuse and mental health issues. Fisher is funny, but the book is sad.
Even the picture on the cover makes reference to what Fisher considers her great legacy, one that will outlive her by centuries. I think of her as an accomplished novelist and actress (When Harry Met Sally), but she feels there is only one guise for which she will ever be known: the Danish-shaped-hairdoed Princess Leia, daughter of the evil Darth Vader, sister of Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, the beloved of dashing Han Solo. Yes, Star Wars became something that, like Jaws and The Wizard of Oz, will live on forever in the pop cultural pantheon of American history. Its popularity and the success it afforded Fisher at a young age broke down any resistance she may have harbored towards the substance abuse that had her family in its thrall. Couple that with mental illness, and you end up with SHOCKAHOLIC, the tale of Fisher’s adventures into the world of shock therapy. Yes, shock therapy is still shocking, and she acknowledges that while laying out the details of how it has saved her life.
Electroshock therapy is supposed to knock out some serious brain cells, and memory is one of the things that is most likely to diminish after the effects take hold. Fisher wants to be a patient where the painful mistakes of her past and her family’s are the memories that get demolished in the process, but that’s not what happens. She dishes cleverly about her relationship with her daughter, which has been difficult during Fisher’s continuing fight against drug addiction, and her relationship to her parents, ending the book with a heartfelt remembrance of her dad, who died in 2010.
SHOCKAHOLIC is shocking, but it’s the emotional depths that are charged under the therapy’s push that really makes this an interesting read. Fisher is a brave woman who refuses to let these bad times (the most recent of which have to do with the death of a platonic friend in her own bed) keep her down. The book will leave you wondering how exactly she is able to keep anything together at all, in the face of disturbing situations that would take down most families in a heartbeat.
Although SHOCKAHOLIC feels like it was written in an episodic manner, the underlying tension of Fisher’s attempts at recovery, both psychological and emotional, make this a difficult but intense addition to her literary oeuvre.