Postcards from the Edge

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Suzanne Vale’s life, like most, is a series of ups and downs, but since hers proceeds along the rollercoaster tracks of Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley, everything is intensified. Despite good looks, good luck, brains, talent, and money, Suzanne cannot seem to free herself of miserable relationships, drug abuse, junk food, and endless self-recrimination. The author, Carrie Fisher, knows about these matters, so much so that this first novel reads like a guidebook to the spiritual underworld of Hollywood--which does not prevent it from being hilarious from start to finish.

Suzanne has honed self-consciousness to a fine art as she obsessively worries about her obsessive behavior, criticizes her critical nature, and loathes her self-dislike, but this introspective habit is always balanced by a sense of humor. Someone in her drug-rehabilitation encounter group blasts Suzanne for using humor as a weapon, but she knows better: It is her saving grace, the safety catch on morbidity and self-indulgence.

Humor is the novel’s cornerstone, but Fisher adds other talents, including an excellent ear for dialogue, especially Hollywood-style dialogue, which seems to consist of people talking to each other about themselves without ever really listening to the other side of the conversation. The novel is full of talk, as Suzanne crosses paths with a screenwriter always high on cocaine, dates a producer as relentlessly self-analytical as herself, braves her way through a film shooting, giggles with a friend on the way to a television interview, and falls in love. The talk, and the novel, resonate with wit and energy.