In a Galaxy Not Too Far Away ~ Book Review of ‘Shockaholic’ by Carrie Fisher

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on September 18, 2012 0 Comments

Shockaholic is the third book I’ve read by a female comedian/essayist this year.  It has been touch and go regarding the quality of observations and chuckles found between the pages.  Prior to Shockaholic (2011) I’ve read Carrie Fisher’s first novel Postcards from the Edge and her last autobiographical effort Wishful Drinking (2009).  I had mixed feeling about Wishful Drinking but thought it had some good quotable passages.  I don’t feel the same about Shockaholic.

           The “shock” in Shockaholic refers to the shock treatment Fisher gets periodically to address her bipolar diagnosis and substance abuse issues.  Although shock treatment has been maligned as something barbaric many who have undergone the procedure swear by it as is in the case with Fisher.  Basically it reboots the brain so if you are having some sort of mental episode it potentially stops the cycle.  The treatment’s downside is that upon waking you could find yourself missing days and sometimes weeks of short term memory.  Thus if you have a dark sense of humor, which Fisher does, the lapses of recall can be construed as humorous.  Although I too share darkness in the humor department and appreciate Fisher’s spunk when it came to admitting her love of all things shocking, I thought some of the breaks may have affected her writing ability…or Shockaholic was rushed job.

           In regards to publication praise, I learned an important lesson from Shockaholic; one should really study the back flap of a book before purchasing it.  Lots and lots of tribute aimed at Wishful Drinking.  Granted, Wishful Drinking in a big enough font however it is the omission of what critics were saying about the autobiography in question that should have tipped me off.  Shockaholic is a bit like those Star Wars prequel films, not the same heart and soul as the original.

            A major issue with Shockaholic is that it reads disjointed topic wise which would be fine if the book was longer, but in the tradition of its predecessor it is a short read coming in at 156 pages and that includes pictures as well.  The two main subjects were the before mentioned shock therapy and the life and death of Fisher’s father, Eddie Fisher.  Shock therapy and the death of her father don’t mesh.  Of course one could understand that after the passing of a parent one might want shock therapy if one believed it would help in coping, but that isn’t the way Fisher presents it.  A wider variety of topics would have helped balance the book.

             Eddie Fisher suffered from ill health at the end of his life and died in 2010, which his daughter covers along with some of her mixed emotions.  Again she wrote about the love triangle that occurred between her father, Elizabeth Taylor, and her mother (Debbie Reynolds) that ended her parents’ marriage.  Like many authors trying to stretch material Fisher devoted several pages to magazine covers (now defunct) of when her parents were married, started a family, and then fell apart.  At some point I theorized she may have forgotten she wrote about this period in her family history before in Wishful Drinking for reasons already mentioned.

            Interesting topics Fisher hadn’t covered in great detail in Wishful were her friendships with Michael Jackson and the most famous of her numerous stepmothers, Elizabeth Taylor.  She reported that Jackson was a sweet man and concluded he was a good father because his children were polite.  She skated over the child molestation allegations except for mentioning that the father of the boy who sued Jackson in the 90s knowingly let his son share a bed with Jackson prior to the allegations.  Fisher claims he was her dentist and told her about his kid’s forays into Jackson’s boudoir as she was having unnecessary dental work in order to get high.

            I suppose one of the reasons Fisher mentions all of this was to give her audience a feeling of “only in Hollywood.”  Yet it came across as naïve and extremely sad.  In the last decade I have read several auto/biographies of entertainers and as a former social worker the most shocking element is that no one in Hollywood reports incidents involving possible child abuse (Mackenzie Phillips and Tatum O’Neal come to mind).  After reading the chapter I wanted to confront Fisher (using Amy Poehler’s voice from her Saturday Night Live days) and ask “REALLY?” A man tells you he is letting his son share a bed with a middle-aged man who has named his home and accompanying private amusement park Neverland Ranch and you are more interested in getting high than thinking that this situation at least deserves anonymous call to social services?  To her credit Fisher admitted she would not and did not have allowed her daughter to have sleepovers with Jackson.

             Maybe it is just wishful thinking (not drinking) on my part that in the future Fisher delve into some uncharted territory.  I think what has made her successful is that despite her entertainment pedigree she comes across as someone who is down to earth in most areas.  She has shed light on mental issues, drug abuse, and being pudgy in the public eye and has done so with wit.  I would like to know more about her relationships with her sisters and perhaps a general opinion of relationships between women in Hollywood.

              As for recommending Shockaholic I will say that it is a quick read and could easily be digested on a plane but if you are looking for anything meatier or something that really dives into the belly of the entertainment industry beast, this is not the book.

     Happy reading!

Westerfield © 2012

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