Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shockaholic, by Carrie Fisher

What do you look for in a memoir? Great storytelling? Confession? What about celebrity? A protagonist who struggles with mental illness? Look no further, fearless memoir junkies, Carrie Fisher's got a new one on the bookshelves, and it's a doozy. "Shockaholic" refers to Fisher's need for ECT -- yes, shock treatments. Shocking, no? Well, I say that if you're depressed enough to require shock treatments, you might as well laugh at yourself. And Fisher does. Fisher's topics are rangey. She explains her ECT-induced memory loss, explores her friendship with Michael Jackson and dishes on the showdown she had with her "stepmother," Elizabeth Tayor. Mostly what's on her mind, though, is her father, Eddie Fisher. In fact, one might argue that "Shockaholic," at its heart, is Fisher's last love note to her dad. Their father-daughter relationship was cursed from the get-go. Ms. Fisher tells of her lonely, father-less girlhood. Here's a telling scene: Eddie comes to see Carrie when she was an adolescent, and makes a salacious remark about his daughter's body. Father Fisher abandons his offspring, lets her down in every possible way. But here's the real shocker: When he becomes infirm, Carrie lovingly takes care of her father. Fisher works hard to shock by confessing her ECT, but for me it is this later-in-life forgiveness that shook me to my core. Celebrity memoirs risk becoming whiny riffs on the travails of the over-privileged and famous. But Fisher's brazen honesty and self-deprecating humor carry her memoir safely out of this sad territory. I laughed. I cried. I empathized. At the end, I felt changed. This, my literary friends, is what we all want in a memoir.

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