“Then Again: A Memoir”
By Diane Keaton
Random House
291 pages, $26

 

By Mary McNamara
Los Angeles Times

It was always the fragile balance of opposing forces that made Diane Keaton’s face so remarkable — those tilted melancholy eyes above that frequent and infectious smile. She seemed in a perpetual state of emotional contradiction, which is one of the things that made her such a perfect match, at least on film, for Woody Allen, who as history’s most hopeful pessimist is a master juggler himself.

So it’s not surprising that Keaton’s memoir, “Then Again,” is also an elusive sort of work, part autobiography, part daughterly paean, part love letter to her own children, a book in which portions of her mother’s journals and details of her parents’ travails in old age far outnumber the on-set anecdotes and glamour shots.

Keaton writes not so much in chapters, though there are chapters, but in pieces, some rushed and breathless and vague, others almost journalistic in their determination to get the facts right, all of them evocative of her famously elliptical cadence and non sequitur manner, which is just as effective and irritating here as it is on screen. 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.

The big reveal of “Then Again” (besides Keaton’s claim that Allen had a beautiful body) is that for many years Keaton was bulimic, excusing herself from real life to soothe herself with prodigious amounts of food.

“Then Again” reads like the diary of an ordinary woman who suddenly became a movie star, who doesn’t quite believe any of it happened, but it did.


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