The (One) Book I Read this Summer

Keaton_Then-AgainYou know those ‘summer reading lists’ people apparently compile when the weather gets hot?

I’ve never done that.

As much as I love the idea of lounging with a book at the park/beach/cafe, summer never seems to be when I spend much time reading. (Aside of course from the daily online articles…of which I probably read too many.) Joe and I spent four days in July camping with friends at a lake in B.C., and other than flipping through Vanity Fair one lazy afternoon, I didn’t read a single thing. (Too busy chatting!) For me, downtime in summer is more about little trips, socializing or exploring the city or nature. And this summer I worked on several extra client projects in addition to my usual workload, which left less time for straight-up chilling. (And less time for blog writing, hence my infrequent posts!)

But I did read one book. Then Again, a memoir by Diane Keaton, was recommended by my friend Kate, who wrote in a comment on this post about my dad: “On child-parent sentimentality and getting to the heart of our parent’s life experience: have you read Diane Keaton’s memoir? It’s superb and I think you would adore it, likely eating it in one sitting.”

While I definitely didn’t finish it in one sitting (but I appreciate your confidence in my attention span, Kate!) I did enjoy it. Keaton touches on her childhood, early acting years in New York, struggle with bulimia, her close relationship with her family (particularly her mother, whose own letters and journal entries are woven throughout), her romantic ties with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, and raising the daughter and son she adopted as a single woman in her fifties.

A few passages that stood out…

On perfection: “Pretty, with its promise of perfection, is not as appealing as it used to be. What is perfection, anyway? It’s the death of creativity, that’s what I think, while change, on the other hand, is the cornerstone of new ideas. God knows, I want new ideas and new experiences.”

On her style in Annie Hall: “I did what Woody said: I wore what I wanted to wear, or rather, I stole what I wanted to wear from cool-looking women on the streets of New York. Annie’s khaki pants, vest, and tie came from them. I stole the hat from Aurore Clément . . . who showed up on the set of The Godfather: Part II one day wearing a man’s slouchy bolero pulled down low over her forehead. Aurore’s hat put the finishing touch on the so-called Annie Hall look. Aurore had style, but so did all the street-chic women livening up Soho in the mid-seventies. They were the real costume designers of Annie Hall.”

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On therapy’s role in her recovery from bulimia: “One morning I went to the freezer and didn’t open a half gallon of rocky road ice cream. I don’t know why. I know one thing though: All those disjointed words and half sentences, all those complaining, awkward phrases shaping incomplete monologues blurted out to a sixty-five- year-old woman smoking a cigarette for fifty minutes five times a week made the difference. It was the talking cure, the talking cure that gave me a way out of addiction, the damn talking cure.”

On the romantic gestures of Warren Beatty: “After I confessed how terrified I was to fly, Warren surprised me as I was about to board a flight to New York, took my hand, walked me into the plane, sat down still holding my hand, and never let go until we landed. Once safe on the ground he kissed me, turned around, and flew back to L.A.”

On deciding to adopt a child: “I know I have to make a decision that will or will not lead to the experience of a different kind of love, a love of less expectations on the receiving end. I know if I adopt a baby I will need to adapt to conditions that require care and responsibility, and management skills too. But above all I will need to earn the right to be a mother, especially considering I am a single white woman staring 50 in the face.”

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I was surprised to learn throughout the book how insecure Keaton is, despite all her success. She’s candid about her neuroses and feelings of failure. She mentions that her eccentricity “hounds” her. Then Again isn’t perfect: it’s somewhat scattered in structure and I wish it delved more deeply into some of her relationships and aspects of her career. But there are some really striking, poignant moments, particularly around raising her kids and caring for her parents at the end of their lives. Keaton seems naturally funny and charming; I’d love to sit down for a glass of wine with her and ask her a million questions.

What about you guys? What did you read this summer? I’d love to know. Any suggestions for a good fall book?

We’ve got Annie Hall downloading as I write this (Joe hasn’t seen it before) and nachos on the dinner menu…

More soon, friends!

~C. xx

p.s. Joe just finished this book and LOVED it. (In his words: “I couldn’t get over how amazing her advice is and how well-crafted her answers were. It got me emotional every time.”)

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3 responses

  1. YES!!! I grabbed this book from a “help yourself” library at a place Adam and I were staying when we were travelling in Central America in 2013 and frickin’ LOVED it. Made Adam read it after me and he loved it too. Another gem I picked up on the same trip was Barbara Walters memoir “Audition” – fascinating.

  2. Right now in my life, I’m v limited to reading children’s narrative writing. (Which at times is a real eye-opener!) And when I’m not marking work, at the moment I have to read government documents about our new curriculum and assessment policies, which is a hot topic. So dry!
    However, I have started reading something out my of my comfort zone; ‘Percy Jackson and the Sea Monsters’ by Rick Riordan- as am in the process of planning for some literary work for our ancient Greeks topic at school! It’s not my usual choice of genre. Fantasy based stuff with monsters is certainly not appealing to me, and I thought I would have struggled to connect with the book. I can’t put it down though! And! There’s a film I’ve learned, that was made about it last year. So it’s perfect for teaching to 11 year olds who want a fright ;)

    Like you though, I find most of my reading for leisure is reading articles… done on my phone.. when I can squeeze a spare moment when I wake up… Or just before I go to sleep . Xxx

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