A Collage of Life: Then Again by Diane Keaton

While I don’t love every film that Diane Keaton’s been in, I do love what she does with all her characters. She has played a range, rare for many American actors, from Kay Corleone in The Godfather to Nina Banks in Father of the Bride to Erica Barry in Something’s Gotta Give, and of course, Annie Hall. I get a kick out of her unusual blend of American-ness: a pant-and-tie wearing, neurotic New York intellectual in the body of an insouciant, tall, blonde, Southern California woman. She plays it dark, she plays it light, but above all, she plays it smart. Very few get the Oscar for Best Actress – in a comedy.

So I was thrilled when her memoir, Then Again, came out last year. It did not disappoint. A well-edited chronicle of her personal and professional life, she weaves into it some entries from her mother’s astonishing journals. It is well-written, funny, honest, tender, romantic, and so full of insight about her family, her mother, and by extension, the person she has become. Like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge, it’s a book I want to give to every woman in my life. These poignant, multi-generational studies of women are such a good read. The ways in which we become our mothers and our selves. To recognize their strengths versus our own. To try to put ourselves in their shoes. Beyond her persona and her celebrity, there is much that we can relate to.

Of course, in the tradition of the Hollywood memoir – she writes about Woody, Warren, and Al with such awe, delight and genuine affection – the passages particularly on her friendship with Woody are sure to delight cinéastes and feminists alike.

Then Again has made several best book lists, including those from The New York Times, Financial Times, Chicago Sun-Times and The Independent.

Even Janet Maslin liked it.

Then Again. Written by Diane Keaton. Random House, 2011. In English.