Carrie Fisher's Delusions Of Grandma Book Review
Delusions Of Grandma
By Carrie Fisher
Published by Pocket, 1994
Who knew Princess Leia could write so well? Ok, so the answer to that is “a lot of people”. I mean, “Postcards from the Edge” is not exactly an unfamiliar title to me. So, there’s probably a few hundred, ok, maybe million, readers who are aware that once she put the light saber down and picked up a pen, she did it with flair. (Yes, people, I am aware that Princess Leia didn’t really wave around a light saber, as a general rule. I was trying to make a Star Wars refrencey kind of joke, ok?) Anyway, I have to admit, voracious reader that I am, I have never read a book by Ms. Fisher until this one. It was a pleasure to discover that she writes much better than she acts. * The Carrie Fisher As An Actress Fan Club Grumbles Ominously *
Delusions of Grandma stars Cora Sharpe, screenwriter, citizen of the fantastic realm we mere mortals call “Hollywood”, friend to many interesting characters, and soon to be mother to “Esme”, the child she carries within her womb and writes the occasional goofy letter to. Is she prepared for motherhood? Nope, not really. Is she afraid of being a parent? Most definitely. Is she going to give it her best shot and hope the pieces don’t fall in too nasty a pattern? Yes, because that’s how Cora faces the firing squad of fate.
Cora sees life as a sort of roller coaster of events- taking care of her Committee (circle of buds), falling in love with the occasional man, facing the man’s inevitable disappointment in her, writing a screenplay here and there, watching the unavoidable collapse of the relationship, allowing her Committee to take care of her in the wake of its demise. When she meets and starts dating Ray, a man a little- a lot- different from her usual type, she knows from the beginning that it can’t possibly work. See, in a weird sort of Hopeful Pessimism, Cora runs a constant balancing act in her head, a see-saw of duty and letdowns.
If a lover does something wonderful for her, she immediately wonders how she will ever fulfill the task of doing something equally wonderful for him in the future. Since she’s admittedly self-centered (but generous) she realizes she’ll never be able to meet the expectations of the lover and therefore, expects the relationship to end even as it begins. Ray, a sweet, compassionate, perfectly perfect sort of guy, is the worst one yet. He gives of himself with such freeness and affection, Cora knows she will never possibly be able to reciprocate. Yet, in an earnest attempt to love him back, she tries her best. Pathetic at times, humorous at others, her constant war- within herself- between devotion and duty, obligation and love, is a delight to read, even if only so the reader can reassure herself , “At least I’m not this frickin neurotic!”
Raised by an eccentric yet endearing mother (whose future plans include running a costume museum where people can ride in little carts and be attacked by crows as they go past the costume displays for The Birds), and surrounded by a cast of friends (the previously referenced Committee) who are each interestingly odd in their own unique and attractive way, Cora has a “big, loud life” and struggles to fit Ray in somewhere he’ll be assimilated. Discovering that she’s pregnant adds a whole ‘nother joker to the swaying deck of cards.
As she writes the occasional letter to her future daughter (she has decided that she would never be able to raise a boy- a “man-baby”, war-like creature who will play with guns and resent her for her ignorance of ballgames and whose genitals she will never “feel comfortable getting perfectly clean”) we follow Cora’s life (though not in a straight line- Fisher jumps between future and past with ease) as she works with her writing partner, the bi-polar, towel-wearing Bud, who has a habit of stealing Ray’s watch and wearing it when he’s not around. As she tries to please Ray, knowing full well that eventually, assuredly, she will fail to make him happy. In between, Cora ponders (delightfully) about the meaning of life and the point of it all and how she will be when she finally gets to wherever she’s going.
Particularly touching is the thread in the story that deals with William, one of Cora’s dearest friends, who comes to live with her…well, die with her actually…. as he is in the advanced stages of AIDS. Fisher writes about the slow dance of death from terminal illness in a way that only one who has been there can do, and I found myself in tears more than once. The manner in which we help those we love move out of this life, a labor as real as that which brings us into the world, is portrayed in truly beautiful terms. On another thread, Cora and her mother hatch a daring, brilliant kidnap plan to rescue her grandfather from the clutches of an old age home where his faithless wife has plopped him.
You would think all of these threads would end up scattered, a messy book that is hard to read. However, Fisher pulls it off heroically, taking her reader by the hand and introducing each act, each character, as a friend who will stick in your head even after you’ve finished the last page. Totally biased I may be, but a gold-mine-book sniffer I am as well, and I say to you, try this one on.I give it a red on the Radical Reading Rainbow.