Though Carrie Fisher will be most widely remembered for her iconic role as Star Wars’ Princess Leia, her career spanned five decades and half a dozen disciplines — she was a voice actor, screenwriter, live theatre performer, memoirist, novelist, and a fervent activist who spoke openly about her own struggles with mental health and addiction.
So watch her movies this week (including all the classics she quietly rewrote and improved), but read the things she published, too. Here’s a list to get you started:
Postcards from the Edge (1987): Fisher’s first novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of a film actress working her way through rehabilitation for drug addiction by writing in a journal and sending postcards to her loved ones. Its absurdist humor was mostly well received, and it came to define Fisher’s writing style. She later adapted the book into a screenplay, which became a critically acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. (It’s currently streaming on Amazon, iTunes, and a lot of other rent-online services.) Fisher’s 2004 novel The Best Awful There Is is considered an unofficial sequel.
Surrender the Pink (1990): A crassly titled romance novel, Surrender the Pink is about a soap opera screenwriter who falls in and out of love with an imperfect man, and finds it difficult to separate showbiz from reality.
Delusions of Grandma (1993): Another semi-autobiographical novel, this one is about a screenwriter named Cora who develops a paranoid fear of dying in childbirth. The novel is made up of Cora’s letters to her unborn child, which tell her life story.
These Old Broads (2001): Fisher wrote the screenplay for this TV movie, which starred Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, Reynolds, and Taylor, in her final role before her 2011 death. Fisher also did uncredited work on the screenplays for The Blues Brothers, Sister Act, The Wedding Singer, many of the Star Wars films, and over a dozen others.
Wishful Drinking (2008): Fisher’s first memoir was based on her one-woman Off-Broadway show of the same name. The book deals with Fisher’s famous family: her mother, Singin’ In The Rain actress / singer Debbie Reynolds; her father, singer Eddie Fisher, and their divorce after Eddie Fisher left Reynolds to pursue an affair with Elizabeth Taylor. It also covers Fisher’s mental illness, addiction, and the absurdities of Hollywood — including a fantastic anecdote in which George Lucas tries to convince Fisher that no one wears bras in space. (Which is factually inaccurate, as well as a gross thing to insist on.)
please honor carrie fisher's wishes and include in her obituaries that she "drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra." ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/Pj5sRsIvkz— elisabeth (@threelisabeth) December 27, 2016
An HBO documentary about the production of Wishful Drinking is also available to stream.
Shockaholic (2011): Fisher’s second memoir breaks down into a few long sections. One returns to her mental illness: She details with candid, self-effacing humor how electroshock therapy helped her with depression, but left her memory full of holes. (She cites that as the reason for writing another memoir — so she’d have a record of the things in her life she was bound to forget.) Other segments deal with her friendship with Michael Jackson — she saw herself as one of the few people iconic enough to relate to him comfortably — and her relationship with her father, whom she reconnected with late in life, and took care of until his death. Fisher tends to fall back on punny, irreverent humor as a defense against vulnerability, but she shows plenty of that vulnerability here as well.
The Princess Diarist (2016): Fisher’s last memoir was released in November 2016, and incorporates the diaries she kept while working on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In the book, she confirms a long-rumored on-set affair with her co-star Harrison Ford — to the great thrill of gossip-magazine editors (and fan fiction writers) everywhere. Though there wasn’t much else for scandal-seekers, the book is notable for showing a 60-year-old icon looking back at a 19-year-old’s naïve behavior, and how it affected the rest of her life. She was touring to support the book when she died.
In spite of a 30-year writing career, so many bestsellers, and so many lauded scripts, Fisher will always be remembered primarily for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. That speaks to the popularity of the Star Wars franchise, and to the power film has to create iconic images and memorable heroes. But Fisher’s writing offered the real insight, by letting people look past the icon to the person. By becoming an outspoken symbol of depression and addiction, by treating her issues with humor and frankness, by being irreverent about fame and the character that made her famous, she revealed herself as approachable, relatable, and human. For those who only knew the cinematic image, it’s well worth taking the peek she offered behind the camera, and into a tragic but well-spent life.