“Life only exists in your mind. Everything you see, everything you hear, all of it, it goes through your eyes and ears and is processed by your mind, and the mind can lie, can be sick, can get it wrong.”– Byron Lane, “A Star is Bored”
During my latest trip to the library I decided to pick a random book off the shelf without looking at the back or inside covers to make any judgements about the book beyond the spine. The title “A Star is Bored” jumped out at me because “A Star is Born” is one of my mother’s favorite movies (the Streisand version, of course) and I secretly hoped this was somehow a parody or a retelling of that story.
It wasn’t, of course. Instead, A Star is Bored is a fictionalized account of the author’s time as Carrie Fisher’s celebrity assistant. Now I adore Carrie Fisher’s books and her candid openness about her mental illness. The author takes great pains to say that this is a work of fiction, that the main celebrity, Kathi Kannon is not Carrie Fisher. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Except, that’s not exactly true. Anyone reading the book can see Carrie’s quirky personality, her irreverence for social norms and the expected, as well as her struggle with sobriety are layered over every aspect of the fictional Kathi Kannon. At times it feels disrespectful to a woman who is no longer here to defend herself. At times it feels a bit like seeing something new from Carrie herself. I couldn’t quite decide how to feel about it. But in the end, I decided to rate it as a story, because, mostly fictional or mostly not, that is in the end, what this is: a story. Nothing less. Nothing more.
Our story starts with the protagonist, a depressed, young, gay man, at an interview for a personal assistant job with Kathi Kannon. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into or what the job even entails, but he has the necessary qualifications as a journalist. He can help Kathi with her writing. He can keep a schedule. He can meet deadlines. He can make sure Kathi does those things too, he thinks. The interview immediately takes the weird turns we would expect of Carrie Fisher… I mean, uh, Kathi Kannon. She decides she doesn’t like Charlie’s name. She dubs him “Cockring” and this is what she will call him for the entirety of their years together.
From that first meeting our protagonist is nearly obsessed with Kathi. Kathi is both his idol and the perpetually petulant child with a penchant for problems he must care for. He must ensure Kathi’s survival and that is not an easy job. Kathi’s elderly mother, Gracie Gold, lives on the property, as do an elderly gardener and an elderly cook who don’t actually do much of anything. Kathi dotes on them with expensive presents, or maybe bribes, and she does the same with Charlie. All of those on the property understand and enable Kathi’s drug use. It’s quite sad how they both care about her too much and yet not enough to cut her off from her habit. It seems only Charlie takes responsibility for Kathi’s sobriety, and thus, her continued life.
Kathi is a difficult character to stomach at times. She does not understand her impact on others. She has no boundaries. She has no respect for others or their property. She has no boundaries with herself or respect for herself either. But it is impossible to hate Kathi or to blame her completely for her predicament. She is a product of her environment. It is depressing to watch her spiral, especially knowing what happened to her realistic counterpart.
In the end Kathi has some things to teach Charlie. She instills some life and confidence and a healthy capacity for risk in what had been a milquetoast existence. But in the end, Charlie must make a choice. Will he live for Kathi or for himself? Will he have his own life or will he continue to try to keep Kathi’s going, despite her increasing attempts to harm herself? It’s a difficult choice for us to make in our own lives and the author does an excellent job and capturing the uplifting euphoria and endless downward spiral that is Kathi Kannon.
“Therapista says hating others is hating yourself.”– Byron Lane, “A Star is Bored”
- reminds me of Carrie Fisher, whom I adore
- relatable narrator, filled with anxiety and not truly sure what his passions are or how to be his own person
- the narrator’s parents are included as characters with unique voices even though they are not present
- keeps you on your toes, as you never know what Kathi will do next.
- feels more than a bit like a “tell all” novel about Carrie Fisher and is borderline disrespectful and extremely close to breaking some non-disclosure agreement
- parts are achingly sad to watch, like a train wreck you know is coming but can’t stop
- the resolution isn’t as resolved as I had hoped it would be (but it wasn’t bad by any means)
“I see a million lives, where it seems a short time ago, there was barely even one.”– Byron Lane, “A Star is Bored”
- Fans of Carrie Fisher who aren’t afraid of some less than flattering “fictional” comparisons
- people interested in the celebrity lifestyle
- fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels
Books to Read if You Loved A Star is Bored:
- Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
- Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)
- Just because a story can be told, should it be told?
- How is enabling someone’s self destruction a failure of love? Is it actually a failure of love?
- Should we take power or agency in our own lives if it possibly harms others?