Memoir Review: Tracy Kauffman-Wood Reviews Diane Keaton’s Then, Again

by Matilda Butler on March 14, 2012

catnav-book-raves-active-3Post #94 – Women’s Memoirs, Book & Video Raves – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

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Memoir Book Review

Then, Again
Reviewed by Tracy Kauffman-Wood

Diane Keaton might have called her new memoir, My Mother/Myself. But then again, that title has already been taken. The uniqueness of this celebrity’s memoir, Then Again, is in her continual reference to her mother, Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall, and the material in her mother’s eighty-five journals. Dorothy Hall was a daughter, wife and mother who liked to think. Thoughts percolated through the restless mind of this 1950’s California housewife, and poured themselves into an overflowing cup — a legacy of self-expression including thousands of journal pages probing for meaning and happiness in the lives of her husband, children and most often, herself.

In the self-effacing, breezy manner of Keaton’s most famous Academy-Award- winning character Annie Hall, Keaton explains the artistic and personal decisions by which she has drawn her life. Although this is an anecdotal star-studded ride from the southern California suburbs to New York and back to LA, early on it becomes apparent that Dorothy’s percolating thoughts produced and directed a well-brewed, truly American story —Then Again— with a starring role for her first-born Diane to saunter into. “You go girl!” you can hear Dorothy’s stage whisper from the kitchen table. Diane takes direction well. She surpassed even her mother’s wildest, creative thoughts.

In a journal excerpt from March 27, 1977, Dorothy critiques her daughter’s most famous, on-screen role:

“…I only saw Diane, her mannerisms, expressions, dress, hair, etc., the total her. The story took second place. When she sang, “It Had to Be You” in a room full of talk and confusion, I fought back tears. But the song, “Seems Like Old Times” was the hard one to take; so tender. I was exploding inside. I tried to hold it back. She looked beautiful. Gordon Willis did a very great job on the photography. She chose her own clothes and the gray T-shirt and baggy pants were “down home” for sure. Annie Hall is a love story. It seemed real. Annie’s camera in hand, her gum chewing, her lack of confidence; pure Diane. The story was tender, funny, and sad. It ended in separation, just like real life…” pg. 127

For her success as an actress in this movie, Keaton pays tribute to Woody Allen, the filmmaker. And as for his filmmaking success, her accolades will warm the hearts of all writers:

“In the end it all boils down to words. Woody’s words. He’s either written or co-written every movie he’s directed. Writing is the underpinning, infrastructure, point of departure, reason and pretext for all of it.” Pg. 129

Powerful thoughts, Diane, (and mother’s milk to writers,) articulated by a woman who has taken her mother’s powerful thinking and writing from private journal to public art.

Dorothy’s thoughts concerning the separation at the end of Annie Hall are all the more poignant as Diane’s memoir of life with her mother ends in the heart-breaking, word-taking, forced separation that only Alzheimer’s afflicted families truly understand. Mom succumbs, and like all children of demented parents, Diane wonders, “Can I be far behind?”

Then again, if as Dorothy and Diane have submitted, Annie Hall is part Diane Hall/California girl and part figment of Woody Allen’s New York state of mind — Diane Keaton is so much more. She is her mother’s daughter — a fully realized version of Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall’s restless intelligence and creativity— all dressed up (in one of Keaton’s signature get-ups) with somewhere to go.

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Want to know what Diane Keaton says about writing her memoir? Here’s a great book trailer.

memoir, memoir writing, memoir marketing, writing

And for those of our readers who prefer the Kindle version, just click on the Amazon icon on the left.









{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tracy Kauffman Wood March 14, 2012 at

Thanks for publishing this, Matilda and Kendra. I hope your memoir writers will read and comment on Keaton’s story of love, loss and continuance.

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