Pocket, £6.99, ISBN 0-7434-7857-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2004
I always want to like Carrie Fisher. She seems like someone who knows how to laugh at her own life. The Best Awful, the unnecessary sequel to Postcards from the Edge, is very difficult to read, alas, because it is as if Ms Fisher has been keeping all her pent-up inner frustrations for years until she finally can’t contain it any more and… bam! The result is this book, 269 pages of incessant, interminable whining from the heroine.
Suzanne Vale, last seen in a book that is more recognizable as a Meryl Streep movie, is back and this time, she seems to have forgotten any of the lessons she has learned in that book. Kinda like Bridget Jones becoming a one-dimensional loopcake who keeps repeating her mistakes again and again for her one-note shtick whenever Helen Fielding wants some extra money, really, except that Suzanne’s brand of passive whining is more toxic than Bridget’s. Suzanne’s husband left her when he decided that he was gay, and that was after he had left some psychological scars in Suzanne’s already overly neurotic psyche. Suzanne is now trying to get her love life moving while taking care of her daughter Honey. Suzanne lost her husband years ago but she is still indulging in whiny self-pity today. For the first painful hundred or so pages of this book, I get constantly repetitious “I can’t do it! I won’t do it! Life sucks! I hate everything! I won’t help myself and nobody does so life sucks! I HATE MYSELF!” hand-wringing and episodes of self-loathing to slough my way through. Finally, Suzanne decides to take action. Wonderful. Does this mean that she will see a shrink? No, Suzanne decides to stop taking her bipolar medication instead!
So instead of an interminably bitter creature who refuses to move from her constant self-pity for five long years, I now have an interminably bitter creature who not only wallows in constant self-pity while aggressively sabotaging her own happiness but she is crazy to boot. Bitter, devoid of self-esteem, and self-destructive – isn’t that a wonderful combination to come across in a heroine? There is humor in this book but Suzanne is so self-depreciating that the jokes are often dished out by her on her own expense. Eventually it is hard for me to see why I should bother with a heroine who seems determined to destroy her own life in some extreme exorcism of her own self-loathing.
Suzanne at the end finds some semblance of peace but I wonder: shouldn’t she have learned this lesson at the end of Postcards from the Edge? The fact that this book allows Suzanne to slip back into that dark pit of substance abuse, destructive relationships, and endless self-loathing have me skeptical of Suzanne’s “happy ending”. How long will it be before Ms Fisher decides to write another sequel and has Suzanne going crazy on me again?
This book is even more shamelessly Mary Sue-ish than Postcards from the Edge, with Ms Fisher having her real-life friends like Beverly D’Angelo popping up in the book in barely-disguised cameos to cheer Suzanne on. Suzanne also whines endlessly about how tough it is to grow up in the show business and how having actor parents really screwed her in the head. Since Ms Fisher breaks down the barrier between herself and the reader by creating such a Mary Sue character in Suzanne, I find myself thinking that Ms Fisher is really too old to be whining like a big baby. Go see a shrink, discover Kabbalah, or do whatever it is that people in LA do in their free time! Making me pay for this book only to have me realize that it is a thinly-veiled repetitious, monotonous self-pity party for one by a grown-up who have years to move on and more money than me at her disposal to live life to the fullest – now that is disgusting beyond belief.