Tag Archive: star wars

Jan 17 2017

Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is best known for her role in the Star Wars franchise as the iconic Princess Leia.  Many of us who are now adults spent long hours of our childhood pretending to be characters in the Star Wars universe.  Whether we were the snarky Princess escaping the clutches of the evil Lord Vader, the equally snarky and jaded smuggler Han Solo, or even the wise and stoic Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars left an indelible mark on our formative years.  (Except for the prequels – those don’t actually exist)

What fewer people realize though is that in addition to being an accomplished actress, Fisher was also a prolific author.  Given the impact of Star Wars on my own childhood, and the recent revelation of Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of the original movie, I was excited to acquire a copy of Fisher’s The Princess Diarist.  Soon after came the news of Fisher’s sudden death, making her most recent book her final book.

Fisher opens her memoir with a recap of highlights from 1976, the year she began filming A New Hope.  A number of things happened in 1976, Fisher notes.  Apple was founded, Interview with a Vampire was first published, and U2 was formed.  It was also a year of significant world events including Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford in the Presidential election and Son of Sam killing his first victim.  Finally, it was the prelude to the year in which Fisher feels her life radically changed forever.

Before auditioning for Star Wars, Fisher played a minor role in Shampoo.  Having grown up in a Hollywood household as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Carrie Fisher comments that at the time the last thing she thought she wanted to do was go into show business.  Nevertheless, she auditioned for Shampoo on a lark, thinking at 17, that it would be exciting to be wanted by Warren Beatty “in any capacity at all.”  She got the role and went back to living at home, hoping that perhaps she would be able to soon move out now that she was “hip”.

Two years later, having dropped out of high school and bored with college, Fisher auditioned for Star Wars while home on Christmas break.

George Lucas and Brian De Palma held joint auditions for Carrie and Star Wars. Fisher auditioned for both – originally hoping for Carrie over Star Wars because she thought “Carrie in Carrie would be a casting coup.”

DePalma primarily led the auditions as Lucas sat mostly mute, simply observing.  After stumbling through the seemingly inane questions of “I see you were in Shampoo, how was it working with Warren Beatty?” and revealing that she would drop out of college if given either role, Fisher was convinced she had bombed the audition.  Much to her amazement, however, her agent called her a couple of weeks later with the news that she had been cast.

At the start of filming, Fisher recalls trying to remain under the radar so that nobody would notice that she had not lost the 10 pounds that were part of her casting contract.  She muses that the now famous Princess Leia hairdo may have been used in part to keep her face from looking too big.

Fisher then dives into what she dubs “Carrison”:  i.e. her three month long affair with Harrison Ford.  Fisher starts by stating that she had spent so long not talking about the affair that it was hard to know where to begin talking about it now and in fact her thoughts on it are somewhat reticent and disjointed.

The affair began, she reveals, in the back of a taxi on the same night Ford rescued her from some crew members who had purposefully set about to get her drunk as a prank.  They had intense and frequent sex on the weekends while studiously ignoring each other during the week.

Although Fisher admits she entered into the movie with the idea of having an affair with a crew member or cast mate, she was surprised that it became Ford given that he was married at the time, and she had intense feelings of guilt over that issue.

Fisher writes with a style that is conversational but rambling.  She begins passages on one thought, finds another thought in the middle, and finally, ends on yet a third thought.  While her recollections are humorous, I found her style to be rather labyrinthine and as a result frequently re-read passages in an effort to keep track.

A vast portion of the middle of the book contains transcriptions of the diaries Fisher kept during her time filming the movie.  In these, she reveals a deeply insecure young woman who was extremely conflicted about her relationship with Ford.  In one entry, she laments her penchant for inaccessible men noting previous experimentation with gay men and then men whom she knew would treat her poorly.  In another, she notes that she thinks Ford is boring which he tries to make look deliberate as if he is “the strong silent type.”  Eventually, towards the end, she admits that she is falling for him hard and muses that things might have gone better for her if she had fallen for Mark Hamill instead.

At first reading, these entries seemed like the melodramatic over the top lamentations of a teenager.  Then, thinking about it, I realized that is exactly what they were as Fisher was not quite 20 during filming.  She may have been finally telling the story as a 60 year old, but the feelings and thoughts were still that of her 19 year old self.  Given that, it was easier to understand her perspective and even smile a little bit at the heightened drama.

While the book starts off slowly, it improves as Fisher eventually figures out what she wants to say and actually says it.

Fans of Fisher’s previous works such as Postcards from the Edge or Wishful Drinking will likely enjoy The Princess Diarist.  Fisher employs the same conversational tone in each and reveals much of her struggles with poor self-image and becoming permanently tied to the role of Princess Leia at such a young age.

Some readers may be put off by her snarky and sarcastic descriptions of fan interactions, while others may cringe good naturedly and recognize a bit of themselves at fan conventions or autograph signings.

Overall, The Princess Diarist is a quick and somewhat enjoyable read with several moments which will evoke feelings of poignancy in light of Fisher’s now posthumous telling.

 

Rating: 

Oct 08 2013

Review: Star Wars books for kids by Jeffrey Brown

The announcement last year that Disney had acquired the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas and the subsequent announcement that they would be releasing at least three more Star Wars movies, has sent the sci-fi and fantasy world into a frenzy.  This has created a surge in books that are outside the normal reference books and fictionalized takes.

Three of those books are by New York Times bestselling author Jeffrey Brown.  The first, Darth Vader and Son is an amusing approach told in single panel illustrations on the premise “What if Darth Vader found himself a single parent to his four-year old son, Luke?”  The result is a hilarious depiction of Lord Vader dealing with a son who won’t eat his vegetables, put away his toys, or go to bed on time, intermixed with quotes from the movies that any fan will recognize.

The book also depicts Vader trying to tackle some of the tougher childhood questions such as “Where do babies come from?” and “Dad, why is it called a Death Star?”  In special homage to the hardcore fan-base, Brown also pokes fun at the Han/Greedo “who shot first?” debate.

While anyone who has ever been around children will be able to relate to the scenarios portrayed, parents will especially appreciate this book and find themselves smiling in sympathy.

Darth Vader and Son is aimed at Star Wars fans and other geeks, but anyone from reading age up to adults will find it enjoyable.  In addition, this book is a great way for parents to give their reading age children who have seen the movies an additional introduction to the Star Wars universe.

 

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The second book in Brown’s series is Vader’s Little Princess.  Following the same premise of Darth Vader as a single father, this companion book tracks Leia from a young girl into the teenage years.

In early panels, Vader deals with incidents such as wearing a bright orange cozy on his head, simply to please his daughter, and being reduced to putty by a simple hug while trying to scold an Admiral.  In true twin fashion, Luke and Leia are depicted teaming up against Vader and getting into mischief such as hiding his keys and crashing Luke’s X-Wing into the Degobah swamp.

As Leia grows into young womanhood, Vader finds himself at a loss as to how to deal with the changes in his daughter.  Suddenly, she’s hogging the bathroom and asking her father to park the AT-AT around the corner when dropping her off at school. The perils of teenage driving are touched on when Vader is teaching Leia how to drive his Tie Fighter, and career day turns awkward when Princess Leia starts asking questions about what her father does for a living.

Finally, in a brilliant homage to The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is introduced as an on again-off again love interest.  Brown takes scenes from the original film and turns them into fun moments any man with daughters will recognize.

As with Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess is intended for the Star Wars devotee, but parents, especially those with teen girls, will relate to the scenes within.  Though amusing and fun, a few of the panels felt as if they were “reaching” to create the joke, and I felt it paled slightly in comparison to it’s companion volume, Darth Vader and Son.

Vader’s Little Princess is appropriate for all ages, and scenes regarding dating and skimpy clothing are handled in such a way that even parents of young children should feel comfortable sharing this book.

 

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Brown’s third book, Jedi Academy, steers away from Darth Vader and delves into the story of Roan Novachez.  Set approximately 200 years before the events of Return of the Jedi, Roan is a young boy on the planet Tatooine who thinks his life is over when he is rejected by Pilot Academy Middle School.  Convinced that he is doomed to attending Tatooine Agriculture Academy, Roan is shocked when he receives an acceptance letter from Jedi Academy.  Here, Roan meets Master Yoda and other Academy instructors including Librarian Lackbar, T-3P0, and RW-22.

Readers of Jedi Academy will notice similarities in style and perspective to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  As with Greg in Wimpy Kid, Jedi Academy’s Roan recounts his struggles as the new kid at school.  The Jedi Academy normally does not accept older children, and this adds to Roan’s feelings of awkwardness and of being an outsider.

Jedi Academy is appropriate for readers aged 7 to 12, though as with his other books, Brown creates a story that adult readers will be able to enjoy as well.  Star Wars fans will enjoy the subtle references to the movies, such as Roan’s least favorite teacher bearing a marked resemblance to Darth Maul and Yoda’s urging of “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Jedi Academy is an enjoyable and amusing read, although the ending felt a bit rushed.  In addition, the handwriting font was at times difficult to read and detracted from the overall story.

Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess would both make wonderful additions to the collection of any Star Wars fan young or old.

While most adults will not be as interested in Jedi Academy, it would be an excellent gift for younger or middle school aged children.

 

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