“Who do I think I would’ve been if I hadn’t been Princess Leia? Am I Princess Leia, or is she me? Split the difference and you’d be closer to the truth. Star Wars was and is my job. It can’t fire me and I’ll never be able to quit, and why would I want to?”
-Carrie Fisher (from The Princess Diarist)
How many of us can pinpoint an exact moment in our childhood that changed our lives forever? Mine was the first time I saw Star Wars at the Côte-des-Neiges cinema with my family when I was seven. (It was also at the Miracle Mart in the Côte-des-Neiges shopping centre where I bought my first Star Wars action figures later that summer.) The space opera eventually consumed my entire childhood, much to the chagrin of my parents, who could never comprehend my obsession and regretted taking my brother and I to what they likely thought would be a harmless Saturday afternoon flick. The Space Cowboy Han Solo became my hero and remains the reason why to this day I love wearing vests. I predicted that Han and Leia would hook up after the first film, even though the subsequent Marvel Comics series had Luke and Leia falling in love (eww, like, totally gross!). And Carrie Fisher became my second childhood crush, right behind Nichelle Nichols (the Starfleet red mini-dress and high-heeled leather boots were ultimately surpassed by the slave-girl bronze bikini…but only slightly!).
I followed the Star Wars saga into adulthood, getting a Millennium Falcon tattoo on my chest and erecting a small shrine to the movies about a “galaxy far, far away” in my living room (and somehow I have never been married!). That is why when I found out that Carrie Fisher had a new book containing diaries she wrote while making the now Episode IV and a revelation that she and Harrison Ford, the actor who portrayed the aforementioned Han Solo, had an affair I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. And by some coincidence, all this is happening just before the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theatres! What are the odds?
Although best known for her portrayal of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher is an accomplished and talented author with more than a few best sellers to her credit, but what is not so widely known is that for years she was a respected and sought-after script doctor, with a reputation for adding humour, or “punching up” dialogue, and in The Princess Diarist it shows. Fisher possesses a singular wit and a knack for funny asides, sarcastic quips and smart observations that are faster than an X-Wing Fighter dive-bombing the Death Star and sharper than Ben Kenobi’s light sabre.
The book begins with a long introduction to the “diaries” (which in my opinion were more like a journal) that set up the crux of the book (her affair with Ford) with some background and autobiographical information. The “diaries” themselves are not all that long (it took me less than twenty minutes to read through) and contain mostly rants, philosophical lamentations, and poetry about her relationship with Ford that reminded me somewhat of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart. The last section is about her life after Star Wars and dealing with obsessive and sometimes bizarre fans at Comic Con’s.
Unlike Ford, Fisher has embraced her association with Star Wars and getting to that point is what The Princess Diaries is really about. The author could be bitter that she will be remembered more for a unique hamburger bun hairdo than her writing career but she instead decides to have a good time with her legacy.
The volume itself is well-written and quick paced (I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions), and there is enough original behind-the-scenes stories to satisfy the fan in me. I will go so far as to say if one were to leave aside the Star Wars elements you would have an interesting existentialist story that on its own is not without merit.
In my heart Carrie Fisher will always be Princess Leia Organa, and The Princess Diarist made me fall in love with her all over again.