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3.8 out of 5 stars
Then Again
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Diane Keaton's double memoir-- of both her mother and her-- is precisely what I expected from the woman we see in movies, get a glimpse of on television and read about: she is completely unpretentious, honest, warm and, although she describes herself as becoming famous "for being an inarticulate woman," quite fluent here. Ms. Keaton's mother Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall married the man of her dreams Jack Hall, raised four children, went back to school at 40, created collages, became a photographer, kept voluminous journals and -- sadly--died of the horrific disease of Alzheimer's. His daughter adroitly and lovingly juxtaposes her mother's letters and journal entries with similar events from her own life since this book is as much about her mother as it is about her.

Anyone familiar with Dianne Keaton knows that she won a Best Actress Oscar for playing Annie Hall in the film by the same name and that she was involved with three film legends: Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. (She recounts a touching scene when Beatty accompanies her on a plane from L. A. to New York-- she has a dreadful fear of flying-- gets her safely to her destination and then catches a flight back to California.) This memoir, however, is remarkably thin on her successes and the men in her life. Ms. Keaton concentrates rather on her mother but also her father, brother and two sisters and her two children she adopted in midlife. In a word, this book is about family.

In a touching letter to her daughter Dexter Ms. Keaton admonishes her to "stay human, sweetie, stay human." In similar words to her son Duke-- surely he will someday read this fine memoir-- she explains the signifigance of his having two mothers. "One had the wherewithal to know she couldn't raise you given her set of circumstances. . . Someday you may decide to make your own family. You might marry and have children of your own. You may even consider close friends as part of your family." Finally, she summarizes the importance of family: "She [her mother] knew one thing: It all boils down to family. One day you end up having spent your life with a handful of people. I did. I have a family--two, really. Well, three if you think about it. There are my siblings, and there are my children, but I also have an extended family. The people who stayed. The people who became more than friends; the people who open the door when I knock. That's what it all boils down to. The people who have to open the door, not because they always want to but because they do." Or as I like to say, your family is those people who love you and let you be yourself.

Surely Ms. Keaton's mother would have been touched by this double memoir by such a loving and classy daughter.
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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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this book in a few days. It spoke to me on so many levels as a woman, a mother and a daughter. I love how she highlighted her mother's life in journaling as well as her own. As Oprah would say I had an "Aha" moment when I read about her mom feeling "washed up" at 54 with all of her children grown. Diane's childlike reaction to her mom feeling this way made me cry. At 53 I've felt some of her mom's feelings and I think Diane's reaction could be like what my children would say to me. I needed to read this book. Diane validates motherhood in her writing. In fact, she validates living this life and dying and all the goodbyes in between. Our time here matters. Everyone could benefit from this gently, beautifully written work.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Close your eyes and picture Diane Keaton.

I bet you see her as she was in "Annie Hall."

Man's clothes. Floppy hat. "La-de-da."

Please return to reality.

"Annie Hall" was 1977 --- 34 years ago.

Diane Keaton is now 66 years old --- for an actress, that might as well be 100.

Indeed, her her latest role is as a spokesperson for Chico's.

The memoirs of a Senior Citizen who was a Movie Star --- it reminds me of what Jean Cocteau said about the movies: You're watching "death at work." In Keaton's case, that means we'll be hearing about actors who are also aged-out. Like her lovers --- Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Al Pacino --- who were her co-stars in such long-ago classics as "Annie Hall" and "Reds" and "The Godfather."

The brilliance of "Then Again" is that Keaton doesn't ignore these men and those movies. They are the reason we know her, and she's grateful and tender and respectful of them. Also, honest. She didn't want to love Beatty, she wanted to be him. She pushed Pacino to marry her, though she knew he never would. As for Woody Allen, she finds him quite the hunk --- and those glasses are totally hot.

But her career is not center stage in these pages. She has urgent personal business to explore here, deeper in her past. Go further back, to her California childhood, to her parents and, mostly, her mother, Dorothy Hall. "Mom continues to be the most important, influential person in my life," she writes, three years after her mother's death.

Dorothy Hall. Mother of four. Wife. Amateur --- it's too easy to say "frustrated" or "thwarted" --- artist. Who entered the Mrs. America contest and was crowned Mrs. Los Angeles. Who died of Alzheimer's. Whose journal entries filled 85 notebooks that her daughter avoided until she was 63 and writing this book.

In these pages --- in this double memoir --- Dorothy Hall gets her props: "From the outside looking in, we lived completely different lives. She was a housewife and mother who dreamed of success; I am an actor whose life has been -- in some respects -- beyond my wildest dreams. Comparing two women with big dreams who shared many of the same conflicts and also happened to be mother and daughter is partially a story of what's lost in success contrasted with what's gained in accepting an ordinary life. I was an ordinary girl who became an ordinary woman, with one exception: Mother gave me extraordinary will. It didn't come free."

That last is Keatonian understatement. Oh, there's the childhood at the beach. The teen crush on Warren Beatty. The clothes she designed in high school. The applause for her in the high school production of "Little Mary Sunshine." Going out to dinner with Woody: "I think I had a date with him."

What didn't come free?

Consider her meals while she was Woody's girl. Breakfast: a dozen corn muffins, three eggs, bacon, pancakes, chocolate milk. Lunch: three steaks, two baked potatoes and two chocolate sundaes. Dinner: a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, several TV dinners, a pound of peanut brittle, a Sara Lee pound cake, three banana-cream pies.

It all went down. It all came up. And after a year-and-a-half with a therapist, it ended.

I have known women with bulimia. But nothing like this. To read about 20,000-calorie days --- it hurts just to think about self-esteem that low. In comparison, Brando walking by and saying "Nice tits" seems unimportant.

"Then Again" is not a howl of pain. It's more like a steady look at how things really are --- how transient life is, how fast it goes, how we never get to tell the people who shaped us how much we owe them and love them, how we reach for one another and, more often than not, miss. Her role in `The Godfather," for example, comes down to this: "a woman standing in a hallway waiting for permission to be seen by her husband." A brilliant observation. An even more brilliant sentence --- you'll think of it whenever you think about "The Godfather." And, I suspect, at other, more personal moments.

Keaton is wonderfully appealing. We think we know her, and she obliges in interview after interview. And now in her book trailer. She can't help herself --- even now, after all the therapy, she has a ferocious desire to please.

But not, it turns out, on the page. On the page, she bleeds.

Because "Then Again" reads as if it was written at three in the morning, it's on a lot of "10 best" lists. It's deserves to be. A woman standing on her mother's shoulders, having the life her mother wanted --- that's not just Diane Keaton's story. But because it's Keaton, you'll stay with it, cry with it, and, in the end, be so glad she wrote it.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I agree with everything said by the other reviewers who gave this book one or two stars. It is truly dreadful and incredibly boring. It would take the gifts of a great writer to make her parents' very ordinary lives interesting and Ms. Keaton just doesn't have that gIft. But even with the parts of the book that cover her own life, where there is built-in interest given her celebrity status and the writing wouldn't have to be very good to be interesting to the reader, the writing is so anesthetized, amateurish and uninsightful that it is actually rather painful to slog through. She flits from one event to the next with mind-boggling superficiality.

I dated Warren Beatty for awhile. Then I didn't. I had an eating disorder for awhile. Then I didn't.

If you still feel compelled to give it a try I strongly advise that you check it out of your local library and save your cash for something that won't immediately end up in the recycle bin.
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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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon November 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For those expecting a dissertation on acting and Hollywood survival tactics, you might be disappointed by Diane Keaton's first foray into autobiography as she only discusses her professional work almost incidentally. The book is really a love letter from a daughter to her mother Dorothy Hall who died three years ago after battling Alzheimer's for fifteen years. As she uncovered her mother's 85 separate diaries, Keaton's attachment to her memory is easy to understand as they appear to be true soul mates, mirror images in personal strength, self-effacement, and a constant fear of failure. The actress is not afraid to portray herself as a woman plagued by insecurities because she hasn't let them prevent her from being an actor or adopting two children at age fifty or writing this revealing memoir. Within the realm of self-actualization, instead of chronicling these milestones in a linear fashion, she presents a collage of memories and revelations in an elliptical manner reflecting her mother's love of the art form.

However, it is not simply an exercise in navel gazing. Keaton does spend time discussing the three big loves of her life - Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino - all of whom she was in awe for their respective flashes of brilliance. Yet, marriage was not in the cards with any of them for reasons that she portrays as outside of her control. Her romantic relationship with Allen started on the set of the Broadway production of Play It Again, Sam in 1968 and continued until just before filming started on Annie Hall, his classic cinematic valentine to her. Their friendship and professional relationship continued well after their split. True to his image, Beatty was overwhelming in his attention to her, and she readily admits that her impressive performance in Reds was "more like a reaction to Warren...a response to the effect of Warren Beatty". And even though they co-starred in The Godfather trilogy, her on-again, off-again relationship with Pacino comes across as the most dispiriting as he questioned her artistic integrity.

The big revelation, however, is Keaton's admission of bulimia early in her career. In her iconoclastic way, she chronicles this life passage in the middle of the book in exacting detail without boring us with any victim-speak or any hint of revisionist diagnosis. She admits it and moves on to her next enviable adventure of which she produces several colorful anecdotes. She writes about being the only one in the original Broadway cast of "Hair" not to take her clothes off; taking road trips around Texas with author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove); and filming Something's Gotta Give at an age (57) when everyone thought the prospect of being cast in a romantic comedy was impossible - including herself. The teenage zeal she describes in filming a kissing scene with Jack Nicholson is infectious. Overall, what really makes the book such an involving read is her ability to convey empathy and a deep well of self-awareness as she canvases the three generations of her immediate family - while remaining stubbornly idiosyncratic in the way we recognize her.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
One of the best memoirs I have ever read. The use of her mother's journals and her life wrapping together is unique. One looks at their own relationship with their parents and how different our lives are to one another. As well as an appreciate for what they have provided their children, and often unrecognized. This is not just a movie star writing a book about herself. It is looking into the great mother-daughter relationship. I highly recommend this very sweet, compelling and thoughtful book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating set up for a biography--intertwining her own life with that of her mother's--makes this work a unique, thoughtful, and unforgetable tribute to a mother that often felt invisible and alone.

It is clear that Keaton gets her artistic talent, insatiable curiosity, and quirkiness from her mother, and laments the fact that she did not have a true outlet for her creativity beyond the acceptable roles of 50s wife and mother.

Keaton's balanced self reflection of her own biography turns what could have been a snippy tell-all about some of the most intimate-adverse men into life lessons about what she learned from and misses most from each one of them. In fact, the only dirt Keaton dishes is about her own (perceived) short comings. But even there, her protestations are not overdone and represent human feelings we all experience as we travel through life.

The ending of the book is sad and beautiful. What will stick most with me as I think about the book is Keaton's awareness that life is a series of saying goodbyes and that life goes by so quickly.

If you have the opportunity to listen to the audio version, read by the author, it adds an additional layer of meaning as her lovely laugh and appealing vulnerability shines.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I received Diane Keaton's autobiography, Then Again, as a birthday gift. I'm grateful that I did, because if I hadn't I likely would never have picked up this fascinating, honest, and sometimes (endearingly) depressing book.

After her mother's death, Diane Keaton ran across dozens and dozens of journals her mother had kept. They're all packed full of anecdotes, pictures, clippings, collages and tons of other really fascinating stuff. Then Again is the story of both Diane's life and that of her mother's. In some parts it's about just one of them, in others it investigates the sometimes bizarre ways that their lives overlapped.

This is an extremely raw and brave book. Diane holds nothing back, and while I've seen other reviewers mention that she comes off as whiny or a name-dropper, I couldn't disagree more. There are parts of this story told through Diane's letters and own journals, and yes sometimes her mid-20s self whined about things. So goes it when you're in your 20s. She could have sugarcoated that, she certainly could have painted herself in a better light, but it wouldn't have the honest feel it does.

While I'm sure this book only covers 1% of who Diane Keaton really is as a person, I was struck with the intimacy in this book and felt when it was all over that I'd been invited to witness a truly tremendous journey. Highly recommended to fans of Diane Keaton and to fans of memoirs / autobiographies.
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