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Carrie Fisher, The Novelist


Just a day after Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away. There have been many remembrances of both Hollywood stars. But today, we're going to focus on a different side of Carrie Fisher, not on the actress, comedian or producer, which she's best remembered as. Instead, we'll talk about Carrie Fisher the novelist. WEEKEND EDITION books editor Barrie Hardymon is with us. Hey, Barrie.


CHANG: So the movie "Postcards From The Edge," that was actually based on her first novel?

HARDYMON: Yes, yes, it's a roman a clef. It's - has scenes from her life. And it's this real skewering of Hollywood elites. There's this wonderful moment where she's so clearly aware, at that time, of gender roles in Hollywood, where one character describes herself as too old to be in the Brat Pack and too young for her own exercise tape, which is this very '80s way of saying it, right?

CHANG: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: But anyway, it's very very funny. It's the skewering of Hollywood and rehab culture. But it doesn't focus as much on the relationship with her mother. The main character Suzanne Vale also does have this famous mother. But it isn't until the time that Carrie Fisher, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, adapts it - and beautifully so - into the movie that she really focuses on the central relationship of the film, which is between Suzanne Vale and her mother.

And what's wonderful about that central relationship is that the end of the movie ends up being the sort of truce with her mother as opposed to being defined by a relationship with a man. And in the novel, it's not that way. So there's this kind of growing from the novel to the screenplay of the movie. But you still have this wonderful, brittle, funny, mordent main character who also appears in her other novels.

CHANG: How are those other novels different - the ones that she wrote after that?

HARDYMON: So the one that I adore is actually her second novel. It's called "Surrender The Pink." And it's about this woman named Dinah Kaufman who is a soap opera writer. And she tends to blur the borders between her life and the soap opera that she's also a writer on. She has this marriage to an award-winning playwright whose name is Rudy Gendler, who may have some - you know, we know that Carrie Fisher was married to Paul Simon. You know, she'd - this idea of being in a relationship with a famous man. But what's great is, unlike the ending of the novel "Postcards On The Edge," Dinah after sort of making this sad and hilarious, I mean, truly mistake-ridden attempt to conform to Rudy's expectations of her, she gets him out of her life. She actually literally, in the soap opera, writes Rudy out of her life. It's this...

CHANG: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: ...Real - so for me, you know, I picked up this book when I was 19 years old at a - at an airport bookstore. I saw this woman who was so much like me, but funnier and more, you know, maybe more interesting and had this...

CHANG: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: ...Wonderful life with these incredible friends around her. And I saw that it was OK to make these terrible mistakes, that you could still be highly successful and highly competent. And that at the end of the day, you didn't need the man. You only needed the relationships with your friends.

CHANG: Were all of Carrie Fisher's novels somewhat autobiographical?

HARDYMON: Yeah, I mean, there is - they all have some element of things that are from her life. And what's great about that and which meant so much to me and still does is that these highly intelligent, very funny women who are taking care of themselves, you know, that's what she grew up with because Debbie Reynolds, you know, herself was this amazing woman who worked so hard, kept this career going her whole life.

CHANG: Yeah.

HARDYMON: I mean, you can YouTube her up to the, like, the last 10 years, like...

CHANG: Yeah, that's right.

HARDYMON: ...Just killing it onstage, had horrible relationships, these awful marriages, lost all her money, got it back again and raised this amazing daughter. So, you know, I think it's kind of wonderful. You have to imagine - right? - that if there's, like, an afterlife that Fisher and Reynolds are still, you know, upstaging each other there. And Reynolds is, like, performing cabaret and Fisher is writing the zinger that comes right after.

CHANG: I love that thought. Barrie Hardymon is WEEKEND EDITION's books editor. Thank you, Barrie.

HARDYMON: Thank you, Ailsa.


MERYL STREEP: (As Suzanne Vale, singing) Pull back them dark and dusty drapes. Let in some light. Tell the bell boy come and... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Barrie Hardymon is the Senior Editor at NPR's Weekend Edition, and the lead editor for books. You can hear her on the radio talking everything from Middlemarch to middle grade novels, and she's also a frequent panelist on NPR's podcasts It's Been A Minute and Pop Culture Happy Hour. She went to Juilliard to study viola, ended up a cashier at the Strand, and finally got a degree from Johns Hopkins' Writing Seminars which qualified her solely for work in public radio. She lives and reads in Washington, DC.

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