Then Again: a Memoir by Diane Keaton
By Zehra Cranmer
Does this picture not just make you smile? It certainly does for me, as it is Keaton’s role as Annie in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall which made me truly fall in love with the actress. It was the adventurous, fun, ditzy easy going Annie in fantastic clothing, rapidly chewing gum that made me follow her around in the movies. Keaton herself is a rather private person, many aspects of Annie are drawn straight from her life but she is not Annie Hall; she is well known for her quirky roles’ but very little else.
We learn that she dated Warren Beatty, Woody Allen and Al Pacino, we also know that that she didn’t mary and gave up on the concept altogether, leaving her childless until her fifties when she decided to adopt two babies. If you are thinking about picking up this book to learn the deepest secrets’ of Diane Keaton that you would be fantastically disappointed as this is not a space simply for the unveiling of an autobiography but it is also the biography of her mother; Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall who’s mind did what she’d always feared, it began to fail as Alzheimer’s took over..
Dorothy Hall’s presence in this book, to whom it is a homage to, acts as a bridge in order to assess her own life by studying her mother’s and in doing so; she looks at herself as a woman, a sibling and a daughter as a form of exorcism. She wishes to shed any guilt she may have felt in not paying attention to her mother outside of her maternal role and almost be forgiven for not noticing her as a photographer, artist and even a writer. Keaton uses the novel form as a platform to finally share with the world her mother and essentially give her, her fifteen minutes of fame. Keaton writes, “If only we could re edit our lives and make a couple of different choices, right, mom?... Now I’m alone, juggling with a memoir that’s also your memoir. Would you have approved of my choices? Am I misrepresenting you? I’ll never know.”
It is Keaston’s own neurosis, be it on body image, beauty or IQ, which creates a chasm between herself and the reader. Although this autobiography reads at times like a confessional in a psychiatric office and a “thinking everything out” space, it can sometime not feel enough, if that is indeed the case, then what is it that the reader is after? Her soul? Well yes actually, it’s exactly what one desires from this very art form. Nonetheless, the longer you allow Keaton’s book to work its magic after reading it, you begin to really see Keaton’s world through her mother’s. There are some wonderful soul revealing and poetic moments, especially upon the arrival of her own children when the cycle of life continues with evermore questions and the realisation that her mother’s presence will live on, especially now that it is on the page.