March 2, 2012

Then Again, by Diane Keaton

I finished Then Again by Diane Keaton, and I have mixed feelings.

(photo from

For the first quarter of the book, I was incredulous: Could she STILL be talking about her mother? Why am I reading her MOTHER'S journals? What is going ON? I definitely was not going to read the whole book. Then I skipped ahead a chunk of pages and saw she was at some point going to be talking about Woody Allen, so I thought I would hang in there awhile longer.

And it was worth it, and I was glad I did: when we shifted into talking more about DIANE KEATON'S life in Diane Keaton's memoir, I was happier. Ah, Woody Allen! Ah, Jack Nicholson! The stories of how she chose her children's names! Hot photo of Al Pacino. Stories about her school days and early acting days. Little gossipy mentions of other actors who went on to be famous too. Blissful sigh.

Still, there was TOO MUCH DIANE KEATON'S MOTHER. I realize Diane Keaton wanted to work through something and wanted to make this her mother's memoir as well as her own, but I'm not sure SHE realized that for the most part readers are interested in the memoirs of people they are interested in. I'm interested in Diane Keaton, and I'm interested in hearing SOME about her mother (as I'm interested in hearing about her father, siblings, friends, boyfriends, kids), but the mother's journals a really boring blog. Who are we? Why are we here? How can I fulfill myself when all my needs have already been met and I'm still unhappy? Why am I not more important? And then there were the mother's collages, which took up way more than their share of the photo sections and were like a moody junior-high project. I do think there could be a market for a memoir of her mother and/or a reprint of her mother's extensive journals/collages, but I'd want it separate from this book.

The rest of it is what I'd expect and/or want from a celebrity book. There was the usual sprinkling of:
  • name-dropping that would be considered gratuitous except that it's part of the reason we're reading the book

  • hints that the celebrity could have been a way bigger success, but chose not to be and/or was forced by circumstances not to be

  • humble quoting of other people's high regard and encouragement

  • flattering photos

There is a tone that feels familiar from other books I've read by celebrities: a bit of the "bride at every wedding, only person sitting round-the-clock vigil at every deathbed" feeling. Reading such books, I always suspect that celebrity's siblings would be annoyed at how situations were portrayed.

I came away from it liking Diane Keaton MORE, but also feeling disappointed that she spent so much of the book quoting her mother, who I never came to like/appreciate/admire the way we were intended to. I was not at all tired of Diane Keaton anecdotes and would have wanted to hear a great many more.


Blythe said...

I wonder if Diane wanted to write a book about her mother, but she couldn't find a publisher unless she promised to mention Woody Allen?

I can't remember if you've read the Rob Lowe autobiography? I thought it struck the perfect balance between name-dropping and family gossip. It focused on his younger years, which were my era (The Outsiders! St. Elmo's Fire!), so I ate it up.

Sarah said...

I'd just like to know what's up with the long sleeves, turtlenecks and gloves. Is she just really modest, (except... no, 'cause I've seen her half naked in movies many times) is it a fashion statement thing, is she terrified of sunburn? WHAT?

Bibliomama said...

Most of the other reviews I've read have said much the same. I'm reading an interesting, non-traditional biography of Iris Murdoch (I type Irish and have to delete the h EVERY SINGLE TIME) written by a much younger friend. It's fun, but I'm quite skeptical.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Then Again last night, and I found it somewhat depressing.

The long sleeves and gloves are just her style, I think. But she mentions her history of skin cancer in the book and writes, "Warren used to bug me all the time about sitting in the sun. Why didn't I listen?" Once I saw her at the flea market in Long Beach wearing a skirt over a pair of long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, and a winter hat. It was a hot day too.