A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Though I read these books months apart, I couldn’t help but notice how their subjects came from similar origins and went into the same profession, yet had drastically different lives in adulthood.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
It takes a skilled raconteur to make such a chaotic life entertaining. This is the printed form of a one-woman stage show that I saw on TV a few years ago, which was funny and sad and troubling.
Fisher is from true Hollywood royalty, she & her brother Todd are the children of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, who left their mother to marry Elizabeth Taylor in 1959. The book is packed with b&w publicity photos that portray an idyllic childhood. Her mother later remarried a man in the shoe business and continued to live in a California mansion.
The author went into acting herself and is most famous as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. She was only 19 when she did the first one, a shockingly young age to deal with the resulting fame. Substance abuse and bad choices, along with a tumultuous marriage to musician Paul Simon, aggravated her mental state and she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Much of the last few decades has been spent trying to gain stability in her life and dealing with the bipolar symptoms. Some of the treatments were quite drastic, such as electroshock therapy. In between hospitalizations, she has written several books, including best selling novels.
This memoir is sometimes startling in its intimacy, but each anecdote is wrapped in self-deprecating humor, so they don’t have that titillating quality. In many ways, it feels like Fisher has been been propelled through her life, having little control over it, as if she is white-water rafting. There is no “woe-is-me” attitude, just the attributes of a good storyteller spinning a yarn about her latest misadventure. It’s not exactly a cautionary tale, but does illustrate the difficulties of living with mental illness, something that even fame and money can’t protect one from.
I do hope that things improve for Fisher, though I worry about the effects of the relaunched Star Wars franchise will have. Hopefully, the toughness and humor that has gotten her through everything so far will continue to see her through.
Simon & Schuster 2009 176 pp. ISBN 9781439153710
A Fine Romance by Candice Bergen
I liked Candice Bergen in her 10 years as the lead character of the 1990’s TV show “Murphy Brown” and had seen her in movies, but didn’t know much about her background until I read her second memoir. Her first, Knock Wood is about growing up in Hollywood, the daughter of Edgar Bergen, the famous ventriloquist, where his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, actually had his own bedroom and was considered a sibling. After such an unusual upbringing, she turned out surprisingly well balanced.
A model before turning to acting, Bergen was married to French film director, Louis Malle and they had a daughter, Chloe, who is now a magazine writer.I was envious of the way her parents treasure her. The marriage to Malle was often a long distance relationship, as each of the couple worked on projects, sometimes on different continents. Her sadness after his death from cancer is vivid in the book and is quite touching. A surprising romance and second marriage to a businessman, Marshall Rose is providing another chance at happiness.
In many ways, she’s led an ideal life, but the book also details how she struggled after having a stroke to continue her career and some of the political controversies she’s been involved in. For the reader, it was intriguing to see the difference between the actress and her feisty characters. With all of her travels and experiences, there was certainly a lot of amusing anecdotes. What gave me the most food for thought was the contrasts between her two husbands and it led me, once again, to puzzle on what elements makes a good marriage and relationships. This was an insightful look back on a life well lived.
Simon & Schuster 2015 368 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0684808277