In the High Peaks

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Diane Keaton: Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

I listened to Keaton's book of personal essays/memoir, Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty, on my travels to Boston and back home again. It was an audiobook I picked up at the library on my way to the Hub, and it was not what I expected. Diane Keaton has had a fascinating life, she is a not a cookie-cutter movie star or celebrity, and she is uniquely herself. That's a given.

In this book she focuses on the question, "What is beauty?," and how that question has resonated through many parts of her life. First, she discusses her physical self as an entity in the competitive world of Hollywood, and then she focuses on beauty in respect to her search for her "dream home," which, as she describes it, has led her to move at least once every two years into another home and then renovate it only to resell the home (at a profit) before moving onto the next house to renovate. I found this interesting, and would have liked to know more about her process, her fascination with architecture, and the details of some of her renovations, but instead, she defends this way of life against those who have criticized her for it. This was unnecessary. Most of her fans and readers would not have thought to criticize her for this way of life. It's interesting, but this need to defend herself from Hollywood gossip and from other aspects of her life was not what I enjoyed at all. 

In fact, because I had no other audiobook for the trip and for parts of the trip there was no decent radio, I felt at times like a captive audience. So I listened closely. I do truly feel that I understand her ideas and beliefs, but personally, I can't relate to them myself. I accepted her portrayal and found it intriguing that she worried so much about aging, hair loss, and all the other bodily changes, but I'm just six years younger than she was when she actually wrote the book, and I can't relate to the deep conflict she feels, not at all, not to any of her concerns. Please Note!! I'm not finding fault with Keaton's book--it's deeply personal to her, how could I find fault with that? But I couldn't connect with her ideas because I suppose I'm an entirely different person.

Beauty. Nature is beautiful to me. The Adirondack landscape is beautiful. I define beauty in terms of Nature primarily. But much, much more important to me as a life concept is just this one word: Meaning. I'm always searching for the meaning behind everything, the meaning that supports everything, the meaning that drives each person to his or her life's work or being, the meaning behind people's behavior, their ideas, their accomplishments. Meaning. This concept, I suppose, is extremely abstract, but there it is.

I found parts of the book depressing in its view of aging as a series of losses. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that aging comes with losses, sometimes frightening ones or ones that seize upon us quickly and alarmingly. I get that. But at the time Keaton wrote this book, I believe she had not finished grieving the loss so that she can move fully forward into the next stage of her life. I felt the positives she stated were statements where she was "whistling in the dark" rather than ones she genuinely believed.

For me to accept aging, I need to believe that no matter what happens, there is something new and meaningful to grab on to. Something new to learn, something new to discover. Something!
And someday I'd love to read a biography of Keaton's life. Now that would be riveting!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting; may I'll read it.
    But as far as Diane Keaton's view of beauty and aging, it should be remembered that she's a product of highly competitive and sexist, ageist Hollywood.

    Women over 40 rarely get acting roles. Women start getting Botox and plastic surgery very early on. Women are always told to be thin, to lose weight. Every woman in the acting business is under constant scrutiny about her appearance and age. And then if directors don't criticize, there are the tabloids, which are ruthless, and online websites and social media.

    I remember Debra Messing being harassed for being "fat" when she was pregnant! Her response: Leave me alone. I'm growing a new human being.

    But even after giving birth, Hollywood celebrities are under great pressure to be thin immediately. Many resort to surgery of all kinds and crazy diets and rigorous exercise regiments soon after giving birth.

    So, I don't blame Diane Keaton. She's a product of this world, which is very unkind to women. However, she is very smart, and should try to rise above this stuff. Her life has meaning and purpose and she is raising two children as a single parent -- no small feat.

    I don't know if I'll read this, as I'm dealing with aging.
    For the first time, a bus driver told me to just put in half fair because "you're a senior, right"? I was aghast. I asked if I should cover up my partially gray hair.

    My women friends are going through this, too, adjusting to being recognized as seniors. No one is ready for this.