The National Catholic Review

As celebrity memoirs go, Diane Keaton’s Then Again is unique for three reasons. It’s reflective; it was actually written by her; and it gives voice to, not one but, two women, Diane and her mother Dorothy. Keaton explains how it is that we hear two voices in her biography.  While Diane was appearing on Broadway in the musical Hair,

watching fellow tribe members shed their clothes onstage every night, Mom switched from letters to journals. It was 1969. She had gone from a twenty-four-year-old woman feeling the newness of two loves, to an adoring mother who reaped the so-called ‘rewards’ of being a homemaker in the fifties, to an adult who displayed hints of defiance in the sixties.

The process of learning how to explore her own unanswered questions came from the action of moving a pen across paper.  How had she found time?  Not while preparing the endless tuna casseroles and cheese enchiladas that became leftovers for four lunch boxes five days a week; not at the kitchen counter, with wilting Kellog’s Corn Flakes sprinkled with wheat germ waiting to be cleared.  When was she able to grab a few minutes for herself?  Not after Dad was at work or we were at school; not before figuring out the best way to stretch the budget so she could buy the extras everybody always begged for.  Did she have free time between the dishes and laundry, and mending our clothes, and renewing her license, and helping Dorrie with her homework?  No (56--57).

Dorothy Hall — Diane took her mother’s maiden name for the stage, becoming Diane Keaton, because Actors Equity already had a Diane Hall — was in the vanguard of contemporary womanhood. She did everything one could expect of a good mother and yet she found time to start a business, one drawn from her own interest and talent. Dorothy Hall was a photographer.

Every Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Church brings before us the figure of a woman, Mary, though not yet as Virgin Mother — that’s coming at Christmas and New Year’s — so much as First Disciple, the one who, in the darkness of faith, says “yes” to God’s plan.  One could say that discipleship is about meeting a demand. It means expending the effort to understand what the Lord wants of us and then following through with talent, effort, and perseverance. Or, one can simply state the obvious, which often goes ignored, and say that discipleship is a discipline. 

Anyone can be a father or mother by responding to the delight and demands of biology. I mean that — so far as I can tell — on the level of biology, reproducing is pretty much a delight for the Father and, in the long run, rather demanding for the Mother. But being a good parent is a radically different thing. It takes talent, effort, and perseverance. That’s why, for a Christian, it’s a preeminent form of discipleship. 

Dorothy Hall pulled-off modern motherhood, combining career, care of self, and family. But take a closer look, by considering a scrapbook that she put together about her daughter. It’s so clear that Dorothy allowed Diane to live inside of her life. Dorrie’s motherhood created a dwelling for Diane, both biologically and personally. Diane lived in Dorrie’s heart. Keaton writes:

The cover, wrapped in shiny silver paper with giant black letters, spelled out my new minus-Hall name. The size alone (twenty by thirty inches) presents the kind of deliberation DIANE KEATON doesn’t merit.

Kicking it off are two ticket stubs from Play It Again, Sam, glued next to a funny-looking caricature of Woody (Allen), next to a yellow Sardi’s napkin, below several photographs of me with fellow cast members smiling in anticipation of good reviews.  Then comes a four-page spread in Harper’s Bazaar that makes it crystal clear I was not the model I aspired to be.  Sure, it was really “cool” to have Bill King (famous for all those jumping shots of supermodels like Lauren Hutton) take pictures, but I look strange in midair, with my huge smile revealing the gold caps my Santa Ana dentist reassured me would last a lifetime.  Headlines like DIANE’S STAR ON THE RISE or ACTRESS DIANE KEATON CAN’T BE PIGEON-HOLED, with a handwritten note from Mom saying, “Barbara sent this from Cedar Rapids” seem sort of forced.  First of all, who was Barbara from Cedar Rapids?  And second, who cares?  The awful review of my performance at the Ice House back in 1975 is a pathetic reminder of my stint as a nightclub singer.  “She may be an adequate actress, but Diane Keaton doesn’t communicate with her audience.  She uses oddly restricted facial expressions and poorly planned body gestures” (75).

DIANE KEATON ends abruptly, with a two-page ad from the Los Angelos Times featuring photographs of Barbra Streisand, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, John Travolta, and me smiling underneath the headline A CHANNEL 2 SPECIAL REPORT...STARDOM: DREAM OR NIGHTMARE?  It was the perfect place for Mom to call it quits.  Her daughter, the little girl who sang to the moon as she stood in the driveway of her parents’ Quonset hut right off Monterey Road in Highland Park, had become a movie star (76).

As a mother, Dorothy Keaton was a dwelling in which her child lived, both physically and spiritually.

We have no scrapbooks from Nazareth, no journals or photos. But can anyone doubt the role that the Maid of Nazareth played in rearing her Son, schooling him in the faith of his people, modeling a life of prayer? Christ dwelt within her. In her body and in her soul. And that’s the mystery of discipleship: the same lowering of God into our midst, Christ’s kenosis, does not come to an end with the resurrection and the glorification of the Christ. He still deigns to dwell in the hearts of his disciples, and his reception there still makes all the difference.

Terrance W. Klein