four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
By: 
Diane Keaton
user_rating: 
0

A-Then-AgainAcademy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress and director Diane Keaton's career spans four decades and includes such unforgettable movies as Annie Hall, the Godfather trilogy, Baby Boom, and Something's Gotta Give.

The Topic: Using excerpts from her mother's journals, Keaton interweaves her own life story with that of her mother, Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall, a frustrated artist who raised four children in 1950s Los Angeles and succumbed to Alzheimer's in 2008. (Keaton's father died of cancer in 1990.) Keaton uses her mother's story--and their many similarities--to explore the events that have shaped her own life. At 19, Keaton left home for New York City, where she met--and fell in love with--Woody Allen after being cast in the Broadway version of Play It Again, Sam. She later embarked on highly publicized affairs with Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. None of them, she notes wryly, loved her enough to marry her. Now 65, Keaton continues to develop new projects, but her latest role as mother of two adopted children currently occupies most of her time.
Random House. 304 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781400068784

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars"Since Ms. Hall left behind 85 scrapbooklike journals, a huge and chaotic legacy, there is every reason to expect that Ms. Keaton's braiding of her own story with her mother's in Then Again will be a rambling effort at best. Instead it is a far-reaching, heartbreaking, absolutely lucid book about mothers, daughters, childhood, aging, mortality, joyfulness, love, work and the search for self-knowledge. Show business too." Janet Maslin

Richmond Times-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars"Then Again is like one of her quirky, lovable, eye-catching outfits, put together with a little of this and a bit of that, striving for a look that roughly follows the norm before throwing in something unexpected. In other words, it's unique--and just right for Diane Keaton." Douglas K. Daniel

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars"Those hunting for Hollywood dish won't find it in this gossip-free reminiscence. But for anyone looking to join one woman's--albeit a famous woman's--touching and funny journey into the vortex that is the parent-child relationship, Then Again features an especially honest tour guide." Marco R. della Cava

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars"The book exists because of Keaton's extraordinary life, but she spends as much time describing swim meets and snack battles with her adopted children as she does on winning an Oscar. Most of all, the book is an effort to understand, represent and celebrate her mother, a homemaker and frustrated artist who was crowned Mrs. Los Angeles in a housewives' pageant and probably dreamed of being Debbie Reynolds." Joanna Scutts

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars"This book feels like Diane Keaton. Which means it's lovable. ... Then Again is most here and now in little seemingly spontaneous asides that appear to twinkle from under one of Keaton's cute bowler hats." Lisa Schwarzbaum

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars"It would seem that at some point an adult woman of certain experience should be able to speak in simple declarative, unapologetic sentences and write a simple, straightforward book about herself. But truth, like beauty, comes in many packages, and if Then Again is not a beautiful book, it seems like a truthful one, revealing a woman still plagued by insecurities, though not enough to keep her from being an actor or writing a memoir, and weighted down with regrets, though not so many to keep her from adopting two children at an age when most women are surveying an empty nest." Mary McNamara

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars"I won't pretend there are pages you won't skip over--I, for one, didn't care about Keaton's siblings; I thought all the passages about her family (yes, including Mom) could have been reduced by a third. ... The actress who's always been best when underestimated has built herself a soulful, unselfish maturity." Sheila Weller

Critical Summary

Keaton's "rich and ruminative, provocatively honest, jumbled and jittery and textured" (New York Times Book Review) memoir resembles a collage or collection of moments more closely than a straightforward autobiography. By turns poignant, unsettling, and even painful, Then Again is surprisingly uplifting in its compassion, wisdom, and self-deprecating humor. The Los Angeles Times was annoyed by Keaton's "famously elliptical cadence and non sequitur manner," and others griped about the lack of on-set anecdotes and Hollywood gossip, but Then Again casts a wider net. Rather than a juicy tell-all, Keaton has written a sweeping and intimate account that embraces all aspects of a woman's life--from childhood and teenage insecurity to love, motherhood, middle age, and beyond.