Monday, January 09, 2012

THEN AGAIN by Diane Keaton (2011) Random House, 256 pages

In a book that is a genuine collaboration between Keaton and her mother Dorothy Hall in both spirit and word, THEN AGAIN will hook you from its opening gambit:

"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 about life, especially the experience of being a woman. She liked to write about it too."

And, write about it, she did. In 85 journals. Literally thousands of pages, excerpts of which are included here along with photographs of those worn pages and personal collages. Just as Dorothy Hall tried to navigate her way through marriage and motherhood and what it meant to be a woman searching for a satisfying creative outlet, so does her famous actress daughter through frank, funny and fearless examination of her own life and relationships.

Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino play supporting roles in Keaton's narrative, though what remains of Pacino is reduced to a list of fragments. Both Allen and Beatty seem genuine friends. I am certainly envious of the billet-doux she shares where Allen writes,"You remain a flower--too, too delicate for this harsh world... And I remain a weed." Or Beatty's encouragement for her to make her own film: "Stop messing around and do it. You'd do it better than anybody. You know more than anybody. Its rough edges would be fascinating....From someone who admired you at a distance last night. Who would like to get to know you better. "

Of course I delighted in the behind-the-scenes perspective of working on ANNIE HALL, THE GODFATHER and REDS, but what intrigued me most about Keaton's journey was her mindful decision to become a single parent to two children, Dexter and Duke, in her fifties. And, the book finishes with them in an open letter to her Mom about how she wishes she were standing side by side, watching her daughter and son "fly down the water slide, laughing all the way." Then again, maybe she is. They are.

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