Title: Then Again
Publisher: Random House
Published: November 15 2011
Read: August 7-9 2012
In A Few Words: Blunt, honest, straightforward
My Rating: 3 stars
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Mom loved adages, quotes, slogans. There were always little reminders pasted on the kitchen wall. For example, the word THINK. I found THINK thumbtacked on a bulletin board in her darkroom. I saw it Scotch-taped on a pencil box she’d collaged. I even found a pamphlet titled THINK on her bedside table. Mom liked to THINK.
So begins Diane Keaton’s unforgettable memoir about her mother and herself. In it you will meet the woman known to tens of millions as Annie Hall, but you will also meet, and fall in love with, her mother, the loving, complicated, always-thinking Dorothy Hall. To write about herself, Diane realized she had to write about her mother, too, and how their bond came to define both their lives. In a remarkable act of creation, Diane not only reveals herself to us, she also lets us meet in intimate detail her mother. Over the course of her life, Dorothy kept eighty-five journals—literally thousands of pages—in which she wrote about her marriage, her children, and, most probingly, herself. Dorothy also recorded memorable stories about Diane’s grandparents. Diane has sorted through these pages to paint an unflinching portrait of her mother—a woman restless with intellectual and creative energy, struggling to find an outlet for her talents—as well as her entire family, recounting a story that spans four generations and nearly a hundred years.
I have to admit that I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. I like it, because it lets you see more into the life of Diane Keaton, and really of her entire family. There aren't too many memoirs that go as deeply as this one does into the whole family. But then there are the parts where I didn't like it so much. There's a lot of self deprecation on Keaton's part, and a lot of what I might call bitterness at lost opportunities.
On the whole, I felt that I connected more with Keaton's mother, than I did with Keaton herself. Diane Keaton just seems very unsure of herself, she has low self esteem. (Which she does admit to, on page 116) At first, the self deprecation was refreshing. It was realistic, and honest. But as I kept reading, it sort of got old. I was waiting for the evolutionary writing where Keaton grows out of putting herself down and grows into her own. And while she does, to a point, once she adopts her two children, she still has the tendency to put herself down. Keaton's mother, while she's not without her own insecurities and self doubt, has more of a sense of self, and has a freer spirit.
The one thing that really stood out for me personally was the fact that Keaton's mother had 85 journals. That is just amazing to me. I hope to have that many some day. I think it I were to count right now, I have around 10 or so. I don't write nearly as often as I should, and the fact that this woman had 85 made me want to write more. Maybe I can pass them on as a legacy to my kids someday.
An interesting part of this memoir is Diane Keaton's relationships. Or lack thereof really. She had on and off romances with Woody Allen, Al Pacino, and Warren Beatty. It was interesting to see her thoughts on these relationships and the men long after the fact, but in a way I ended up feeling sad for her. Even though it was by her own choice, she never really got close to them, or let herself be free with any of them. The one exception might be Al Pacino, because she did talk about wanting to marry him, (but he didn't want that) Although it felt like there were things wrong with their relationship anyway. When I was reading about it it felt like they didn't really connect and she just wanted to be with him for comfort. When I read the ending correspondences in that section of the book, it sounded like they were barely friends.
I did enjoy reading about Keaton's experiences with being an older parent. I've got to give her a lot of credit for adopting babies at 50 and 55. That takes guts. And it's clear that she loves them. Reading her letters to them though, it sounds as if they are formal. Not that they aren't loving, they're just written in a different voice than a younger mother might have written them in. Maybe it's just that they have more wisdom to them than emotion you might expect from a younger mother.
Overall though, the book is really only snippets of Diane Keaton's life. It's more about her paying tribute to her mother, and the legacy that Dorothy Hall left behind. It's a very powerful recollection of a life, both from Hall's perspective and Keaton's reflection as her daughter.
My Favorite Quote:
"For most poor dumb brainwashed women marriage is the climactic experience. For men, marriage is a matter of efficient logistics: the male gets his food, bed, laundry, TV...offspring and creature comforts all under one roof...But for a woman, marriage is surrender. Marriage is when a girl gives up the fight....and from then on leaves the truly interesting and significant action to her husband, who has bargained to 'take care' of her...Women live longer than men because they haven't really been living."'
(quoted in Then Again on page xi-xii, as it was quoted in one of Diane Keaton's mothers' scrapbooks directly from Tom Robbins book, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues)
That quote speaks volumes to the institution of marriage. It certainly spoke to me.
All around, this is a very interesting read and I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to know a little more about Diane Keaton and her background.