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3.8 out of 5 stars
Then Again
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125 of 148 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
'Then Again' (2011) is a poignant but often frustrating 'collage' of a memoir by cultural icon Diane Keaton. The book's best feature is that Keaton writes in her own inimitable voice; there are no ghost writers present here, though ghosts of other kinds abound.

'Then Again' is a work of memory and feeling; it conceals more than it reveals, and hard facts are few.

Its most striking quality may be the depth of Keaton's self-depreciation. At 65 years of age, an Academy Award-winning actress (nominated for Best Actress four times over four decades, winning once), an accomplished director of film and television, a highly stylized comedian, an author of multiple books on photography and painting, and a vital presence in American cinema and culture, it is surprising how little self-esteem, and how much active self-loathing, Keaton has for herself.

Not only does the author seem burdened with regrets, which she freely acknowledges and makes a point to underscore, but she consistently magnifies the relatively inconsequential while ignoring her many actual achievements: she discusses a late 1970s Vogue cover which was cancelled because Keaton insisted that the editors use a black and white Irving Penn photograph, but she doesn't mention her 1987 Vanity Fair cover at all.

About the first two Godfather movies (1972, 1974), both of which are acknowledged American film classics, Keaton's most prominent memory is that makeup artist Dick Smith saddled her with an unbecoming "10-pound blond wig," as if her performances and other contributions were little more than wallpaper or window-dressing.

While filming the third Godfather film in Palermo circa 1990, Keaton notes that the reassembled cast is "older but not happier," and focuses on Winona Ryder being replaced by Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, whom, she notes, "was soon to be seen on the cover of Vogue."

'Then Again' is full of such biting but apparently only semi-intentional asides. Of all the elements Keaton might have enjoyed, appreciated, and remembered about filming in southern Italy, the reader will question why Keaton decided to focus on what she presumably saw as an act of nepotism by Francis Ford Coppola.

Of her performance as Renata in Allen's first dramatic film, 'Interiors' (1978), Keaton believes she was simply miscast.

Though Keaton discusses Woody Allen's 'Anne Hall' (1977) at length, she mentions his 1979 masterpiece, 'Manhattan,' in which she played the female lead, Mary Wilkes, only once, and then only by name.

Worse, however, is how little appreciation she has for her own comic genius in some of Allen's "early funny" films of the 70s, from 'Sleeper' (1973) to 'Play It Again, Sam' (1972, written by and starring Allen, but directed by Herbert Ross) and 1975's hilarious and underrated 'Love & Death.'

Readers are very likely to appreciate Keaton's candor when it does manifest, though the author herself remains inexplicable, perhaps because, even in late middle age, she still seems rudderless and ungrounded. Keaton doesn't seem to really know what she thinks or feels about almost anything.

Though Keaton rejects her father's simple, Dale Carnegie-driven aphorisms, despite the presence of literate Woody Allen in her life, Keaton never discusses any books she's read and loved. Had she read Blake, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Emerson, Freud, Jung, T.S. Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, Isak Dinesen, Muriel Spark, or even Camille Paglia, Keaton might have gained some necessary insight into her own existence as well as the general human condition.

For example, upon winning the Oscar for Best Actress for 'Annie Hall,' Keaton unexpectedly comes face-to-face with her childhood idol and role model Audrey Hepburn, who congratulates her on her achievement. What Keaton recalls most vividly is only that Hepburn "was old," and not the elegant young woman Keaton remembered from a 1953 photographic spread in Life magazine, as if Hepburn's aged appearance was a personal affront to Keaton at the moment of her triumph.

What are readers to make of such undigested and shallow perceptions? Keaton often seems to lack insight about herself on a grand scale.

The author discusses her romantic relationships with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Al Pacino in the same hazy but breezy manner. She was 'sort of' the girlfriend of each for extended periods at different points of her life, though each man apparently refused to commit to a structured, traditional relationship with Keaton, which, she says, tended to make her push harder for exactly that.

One of the key points of Robert Bly's 'The Sibling Society' (1997) was that men and women in the West, having significantly surrendered traditional gender roles, no longer act or relate to one another as different sexes; instead of dating and interacting in any formal, structural manner, they simply 'pal around' like brothers and sisters; often, neither party even knows whether or not they're on a date in fact---all of which is disastrous for sexual relations. Keaton seems to have succumbed to this syndrome in each of her major relationships, or at least in those discussed here.

Keaton believes that Pacino is "an artist," while she is merely "artistic." Why? For Keaton, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side.

A major theme of 'Then Again' is Keaton's relationship with her family, especially her relationship with her creative but frustrated mother, who also made collages and also seemed unable to ground herself, especially after her four children had grown.

However, again, hard facts remain sketchy: readers are told that Keaton's father abandoned her mother at some point, but it is almost impossible to tell when, and if he ever returned; Keaton's younger brother, Randy, apparently suffers from some form of debilitating psychological illness, but almost nothing concrete about his illness is declared.

Keaton's lengthy passages concerning her own five-year struggle with bulimia, becoming an advocate for aging gracefully (which doesn't square, obviously, with her comments about Hepburn or the airbrushed photographs of her on a recent Chico's clothing catalog), her father's fatal brain tumor, and her mother's later decline into Alzheimer's disease are largely touching and courageous. The book's early chapters are more appealing than the latter, as, despite joyfully adopting two young children in midlife, Keaton's adulthood appears to have been largely an unhappy one, her ego constantly knocking against the hard facts of life.

Very much like Keaton's public persona, typified by her 'Annie Hall' character, the author of 'Then Again' seems constantly caught between opposing forces of humility and repression on one side and an unacknowledged sense of ego, ambition, and entitlement on the other. Is she 'special' and thus exempt, or is she 'common' and subject to the usual list of life's vicissitudes? Keaton doesn't seem to know.

One critical lesson 'Then Again' may unintentionally convey is that the life of a beautiful film star and talented artist is essentially no different from anyone else's. Keaton, it seems, despite her dilemmas, has been spared nothing.

Readers who have read Mary Astor' grueling autobiography, 'My Story' (1959), may recall it while digesting Keaton's memoir. Though Keaton hasn't suffered Astor's crippling alcoholism, the same terrible tone of sadness pervades both books.

And that tone is probably the last thing most Keaton admirers would want for their much-loved and respected comedian.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am really divided about this book--hence the "average" rating. As others have noted, it is more a musing on mothers and daughters and aging than it is an autobiography, which is a disappointment if you are hoping to read about Keaton's life as an actress. All of her accomplishments are dashed over so quickly it's hard to tell what actually happened. If you don't already know much about her, you will emerge more confused than when you started.
I would have loved to hear more about her acting career, her photography and her home renovation projects.

Instead, the book goes into a somewhat odd and disturbing place as Keaton uses tidbits from the diaries of her mom, who suffered from depression before being hit with Alzheimer's. Keaton's successes are juxtaposed with her mom's gradual decay as her children leave the nest. Her mom doesn't know what to do and resorts to jotting down mind-numbing details of her life to stay sane. Meanwhile, Keaton, as if spiting her own success, focuses on odd projects that are off-putting to most people, and chooses men who are unavailable. Neither of them seems happy, and it's all a bit like watching an episode of "Hoarders."(This book actually reminded me a lot of D.J. Waldie's "The Holy Land," which is presented as a history of Lakewood, CA, but is actually a disturbing personal musing about one man's family growing up in the 50s.)

Keaton alternates between showing great self-awareness and insight, and then pulling back. Like her mom's scrapbooks, she only shares tantalizing scraps. Perhaps this is a more truthful portrait of a person than a straightforward biography. I'm just not sure it's a person I care to spend time with. But, I do admire Keaton's brutal honesty. Her life came across as very sad to me, and that's a brave thing to put out there.

Kindle owners should know: I purposely bought the actual book (not the Kindle edition) assuming there would be lots of great photos. Big disappointment, there are about 6 grainy photos--three of them being pages from her mom's old scrapbook. I could have saved money and space on my bookshelf and lost nothing by buying the digital edition.

I can't really say I'm glad I read this book, but there are parts of it I won't soon forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
A sweet diversion, but not a lot of insight here, and not many of celebrity tidbits, either. It reads pretty much as Diane Keaton speaks: a little rambling, with tangents that go off here and there. A neat thing is that it's as much about her mother Dorothy Keaton Hall as it is about herself. There are letters, phone messages, and transcripts from Dorothy's journals. A really wonderful inclusion is mom's artistic journals, fabulous collages with magazine images, family photos, found texts, and personal notes. And there are many of them; it seems to have been a life-long endeavor, these journals. Honestly, I'd love to see some of those recreated and published.

Two major events happen, nearly at once: Dorothy is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and Diane adopts two infants at 50+ years old. So the author becomes an instant member of the "sandwich generation," tending both her mother in her diminishment and her young--and thoroughly loved--children.

This book was just a little too much on the surface for my taste. Maybe because I'm such a fan of Keaton the actor so my expectations were higher. Or maybe it's because I just read Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel, another memoir "about" the author's mother. That one was deep and layered and simply amazing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Certainly an honest & brave autobiography, poorly executed. I would have loved to have more insight into Ms. Keaton's life instead of reading letters from her mother. In the areas that she does speak of herself, I found her to be a complex & interesting woman. I can only assume that with her parent's death so close together, she decided to write the book weaving their stories into her story. It just did not work, for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Amazing lady with interesting life. Would have liked more about Diane Keaton and less about others. She still looks great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I think Diane has had a fascinating life and while she showed parts of her past I was left wanting more. I would like to have read more about her movies and men and less about her mother, although I know it was very important to her to write about her. I find Diane to be an admirable woman and it's great that she did all that she did both with decorating and real estate and, then, motherhood. A good book-just not what I was hoping for.
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on November 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
In this memoir Diane Keaton talks about growing up in a large family in California, her career, her romances, her adopted children, and especially her mother. She calls this a story about her mother and herself.

Diane grew up in a loving home, with an especially warm and creative mother and a father who - though somewhat distant - tried to do right by his family. Diane's mother, Dorothy Hall, was addicted to documenting her life, and left behind a large number of journals that are excerpted in this book. We come to know her as a woman devoted to her family and proud of her talented daughter, though perhaps somewhat unfulfilled in her own life. Diane also writes a good deal about her siblings, with whom she has close and affectionate relationships. A couple of eccentric grandparents also make an appearance, whose exploits are sometimes humorous, sometimes touching or sad.

Diane devotes a good deal of the book to her career: her love of singing, her move to New York to look for work, her acting coaches, her entry into show business, movies she's acted in and directed, her friends in the industry, and more. This is engaging and gives a small but interesting glimpse into the world of show business.

Diane is honest about her love life, and speaks openly and kindly about her romances with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Al Pacino. Diane badly wanted to marry Pacino, with whom she made three Godfather movies, but could never convince him to take the plunge. Nevertheless, all Diane's boyfriends apparently remained friends for life.

Diane is devoted to the two children she adopted later in life, her daughter Dexter and her son Duke. We learn details about their arrival at her home, gifts they received from Diane's celebrity friends, their birthdays, what they liked to do, their loving interactions with their mom, and so on.

Diane devotes many pages to the death of her father from cancer, and to her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's disease; we see Dorothy's slow decline and eventual death. To me, these parts of the book - though clearly very meaningful to the author, whose anguish is clear - were overly long and the least interesting parts of the story.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, about Diane's career, much more than the parts devoted to her parents decline, which were sad but not gripping. If the author writes another book concentrating on her show business experiences I'd read it.
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Format: Hardcover
A loving portrait of her mother forms the core of Diane Keaton's memoir, Then Again. In writing about her own life, she believed it only fitting to share her mother's journey, showing how their bond came to define both of their lives.

Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall was an artist in her own way, creating collages, writing in numerous journals, and revealing herself in some depth. She was also the mother of four, a wife, and a homemaker.

Alternating between Diane's thoughts and feelings and those of her mother's, we come to learn bits and pieces of their lives. Interconnected as they were, a memoir would not be complete without both of their stories.

As a big fan of Diane Keaton, I enjoyed learning more about the early years and her movies. But her connections to her family of origin, as well as to the family she created with her adopted children, made for an intriguing journey of its own. She poses questions about loss and why Alzheimer's disease chooses to victimize some and not others, asking what, if anything, one can do to avoid the onslaught of the disease. Pointing out how the sadness of this loss for a woman who loved words, like her mother, seemed especially cruel.

The little goodbyes in life lead us inevitably toward our final goodbyes, and thus to the final answers: What happens then? The transient nature of life, with all its passages, is a major theme in this memoir, as well as how life's dreams, even when achieved, can be fleeting.

The story wended its way through time, back and forth, reminding us of the author's somewhat fragmented style of speech, a quirkiness that reveals itself as her true voice. It was hard for me to separate my admiration for the actress and the woman from the book that left me wanting to know more. There was much more she could have told us, but perhaps that will come to us in another story. 3.5 stars.
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on December 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
For me, personally, all Hollywood memoirs begin with Lauren Bacall's BY MYSELF, which I read at a WAY to early age, but which set the tone for what to expect - childhood anecdotes, getting that first big break, marriage, gossip and insight into their film oeuvre and a big picture wrap up of an incredible journey. Certain stars get to the place where their body of work, be it on stage, screen, television or all three, makes for a feature length book. Diane Keaton is easily one of those actors, whose career begins with HAIR on Broadway and continues unabated today. The main problem, for me, is that this incredible actress, who, for me, like many people, made such an impression in ANNIE HALL, is that this book is not a traditional Hollywood memoir but more of a dual memoir about Keaton and her mother, who chronicled her life in a series of journals and scrapbooks. This is a nice touch and would make a wonderful, separate study of mothers and daughters, but the problem is that Keaton attempts this psychological feat of strength and pen a traditional Hollywood memoir. The following films either get NO mention or LESS than a half a page - LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, MANHATTAN, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, A GOOD MOTHER, THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, MARVIN'S ROOM, THE GODFATHER PART II and FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Biographers have long been fascinated bout TOWN AND COUNTRY, which she never mentions. Keaton's forty plus year career warrants serious examination, and while she is of course allowed to write her own memoirs her own way, there seems to be so much untapped that could add to one of the great actresses of the modern era. Her main three romances - Woody, Warren and Al, are covered briefly and offer the few personal glimpses in a memoir all about personality. On a side note, her Grammy Hall (paternal grandmother) made for an incredible character, and for this reader, elevated the book a half a star.
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on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read this book because I knew it was about Keaton's mom, or rather her relationship with her mom, and that her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I was curious about how a daughter of a mother with Alzheimer's would write about it. I finally found what I was looking for when Keaton began questioning whether her mother's Alzheimer's might be related to her mother's depression, lack of self-esteem, the way her mom lived her life, etc. (i.e, non-biological/medical stuff). But the nugget came late in the book, and there wasn't much beyond that. Or much before it really. I never got a really good sense of who her mom was -- either before or after the Alzheimer's diagnosis. Too much of the narrative was second-hand knowledge drawn from her mother's journal/diary. There weren't enough descriptions of Keaton's own observations and experiences. It made me question how much of a hands-on/daily relationship she actually had with her mom, especially as her mom aged.

Despite feeling like I didn't get much out of the book (and despite Keaton's amateurish writing), I am giving it three stars, not two, because there was something about it that kept me reading -- maybe just the reality of (so-called) Alzheimer's.
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