Celebitchy Book Club: ‘Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty’ by Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton

Bedhead’s take: I very much enjoyed Diane Keaton’s first book, Then Again (2011). The whole memoir was a love letter of sorts to her late mother. Diane covered many topics about her life in her typically zany way, but the book was infused with a framework. The various chapters were interspersed with entries from her mother’s scrapbook journal. These bits and pieces of italicized text acted as the glue between book sections, and it also gave the memoir a homey feeling.

This book club selection by Diane doesn’t fare as well. Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a bloody mess to read. The book meanders so much that it’s hard to stay focused as a reader. I guess she wrote this “sequel” because her first book sold so well. This new effort seems rushed, which (sadly) is often the case with followups. Blame publisher deadlines and sophomore anxiety, I guess. This book does have a major theme — Keaton’s experiences within an industry focused upon looks and beauty — but it does not resonate as much as the first book’s focus upon family. I appreciate her candid manner of speaking in interviews, but her writing seemed very flustered.

Even more befuddling is how Diane covers a lot of the same ground in both books. Diane’s insecurities at not being a classic beauty is a repeat topic. As are her discussions of her famous boyfriends. She’s fairly effusive about dating some of the greats (Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson), but Diane is nauseating when it comes to lavishing praise on Woody Allen. She still loves him, and they are friends, but Diane seems willfully blind to the Woody Allen problem. You know what I’m talking about here.

Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a ramshackle book that offers little wisdom or reward. Not only is it difficult to read, but it turns into a singsong cliché. Diane talks like she’s the biggest cheerleader of knowing how to love yourself, but I don’t see much evidence of growth. She was once a young, insecure actress. Now she’s an older, insecure actress. She complains so much about not being perfectly beautiful and claims not to care, but then she just keeps on rambling on the topic. She also talks in nonsensical phrases and speaks of loving “broken birds” and her own navel, basically.

Something cool: The parts about fixing up and selling homes was interesting. The parts about aging and beauty had potential, but Diane hammered those points home way too hard. I do think Diane is a wicked good actress, but she really lost me with this book.

Celebitchy’s take:
Diane Keaton is an unconventional eccentric an industry that values cookie cutter conformity. In Let’s Just Say, she tells us about it in a roundabout way that is sometimes poetic and often annoying. The book is more a series of essays than a coherent narrative, and it jumps around frequently in ways that don’t always make sense. While it’s technically an easy read, it’s also frustrating with little payoff.

There are moments of real depth in this book, like when she writes of her late parents or of her young adult children. There are also many unnecessary, random passages in which she espouses on the concept of beauty, as if she’s looking at a Pinterest board and describing it to us. She spends a lot of time talking about her hair, her fondness for menswear, and her very strange taste in clothing. Keaton gets philosophical about aging and about her persona, explaining why she’s always wearing hats, how she layers clothing even in the summer, and how she enjoys going barefoot, even to her son’s school. She tells us these things in a kind of stream of consciousness, jumpy prose that lacks continuity. She sometimes uses insider phrases and nicknames without properly explaining them, which made me feel like I wasn’t in on the joke.

I got the impression that Keaton has been different her whole life and that she sought out role models who follow her aesthetic. I think she’s also trying to say that perfection doesn’t matter, that we’re all ugly and beautiful in different ways and that we should embrace what makes us unique. It took a lot of sorting through nonsense to reach this conclusion and, like Bedhead and Kaiser, I wouldn’t say that this book is worth the trouble.

Kaiser’s Take:
I couldn’t even finish this mess. It was poorly written and I got the feeling her editor was just sort of like, “Eh, who cares?” I’m surprised to hear Bedhead say that Diane’s first book was so much better because this book sort of ruined my opinion of Diane. I thought she would be off-beat and unconventional, but her writing and her opinions on beauty, Hollywood and “girl power” seemed so juvenile and embarrassing. I sometimes felt like I was reading a 13-year-old girl’s attempt on a feminist thesis. “Um, yeah, like Lena Dunham is cool because she’s different and she’s not really pretty in a conventional sense and that’s good.” That’s basically the point of one chapter. I would not recommend this. I’m sorry for choosing it!

Our next book is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. We will discuss the book on August 31st!

Diane Keaton

Photos courtesy of WENN

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44 Responses to “Celebitchy Book Club: ‘Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty’ by Diane Keaton”

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  1. dahliablue says:

    So….why DOES she wear hats?

    • Celebitchy says:

      She said in the book that she always has bad hair days, basically, and she also lamented about how her hair is thinning. She wrote something about how her hat is her hair, but I can’t be bothered to look it up again.

      • P.J. says:

        Hmm. Could be that her hair began thinning many years ago because of the fact that she was always wearing hats. (This is a common problem much more often seen amongst men; they wear hats to cover up mild hairloss only to unwittingly exacerbate the problem because the scalp needs to breathe in order to be healthy.)

        Thanks for the candid reviews ladies! I was initially very excited to run out and buy this when I read one of Diane’s early interviews to promote it, but now I think I’ll just wait and take it out from my local library.

      • Bella bella says:

        @PJ, my thought as well, re the hat/thinning hair relationship.

  2. kaligula says:

    Hee hee…. Love these candid reviews. Will definitely skip this one!! Thanks ladies.

  3. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I completely support this book club and love the idea, but have screwed up all but twice in getting the book read in time. I won’t bother with this one, though. Thanks.

  4. Kiddo says:

    They had these really old Johnny Carson excerpts on TCM a few months ago. She was on, and it seems as though she hasn’t developed much since then (70′s, early, late; not sure). I couldn’t decide if she was laying on thick the artiste-original -manic-pixie-girl-routine, or if she was merely scatterbrained. I think it was a bit of both. She did also speak lovingly about her parents who were still alive at that point. It sounds like a book I could pass up.

    • lisa2 says:

      I really believe that thing about how some people are stunted. That they stay in the period of their lives when they were most successful or the time they thought the were the most beautiful or even happiest.

      Some people can’t move beyond that time to grow and develop.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Yes, I have wondered about her since she wore that Annie Hall outfit to, I think, the Oscars in the 1990s or 2000s, and it was such a cringe moment. Like she hadn’t moved on at all.

      • Kiddo says:

        I don’t mind a distinctive personal style that bucks trends, so that part of it doesn’t offend my sensibilities. But based on the review, and her age, I guess I would have anticipated greater depth and wisdom, that’s what I find disappointing.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I think it’s fine to be yourself and buck trends as well, but that outfit was copied from a character in a movie. It seemed more like she was stuck in that image of herself, or that time when she was the kooky young offbeat ingenue, and hadn’t developed a style of her own. At the time I admired her for not getting a ton of plastic surgery and aging gracefully, so her showing up dressed as a character from her past threw me.

      • Mayamae says:

        Diane wasn’t copying a character from a movie. The story goes that Woody Allen based Annie Hall on Diane. The character dressed in men’s clothes because Diane did, not the other way around.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Oh, Mayamae, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that. Well, I still think she looked stupid at the Oscars. Lol

  5. mata says:

    I’ve never been a fan of hers and when I got to Kaiser’s review I realized why. Kaiser’s impression of her through the book is exactly how she’s always come off to me. Thanks for putting it into words, Kaiser.

    On the Woody Allen thing, I’m actually going to give her a pass. In the case of Polanski, there’s no doubt. The a*hole hands down did it. I also believe that Woody did it. However, Diane has been friends with Woody for years and no doubt feels that she knows him well. She’s gotten his side of things the whole way through. Even among Mia’s children, not all of them support Dylan. As I said, I believe he did it, but I’m sure that for those closest to the situation, things might be a bit murkier.

    • Arock says:

      Agree with you. Though I’ve always respected her work professionally, her personal stance on the allen rubs me the wrong way. It’s her prerogative to support a long time friend and coworker but my take on his behavior is one of skeezyness and with so much first person/victim evidence it’s hard to look beyond. Maybe I just don’t get his work (never thought it was that great) but his creative value is null and void considering his behavior.

  6. Miss M says:

    I am so excited about Unbroken. I read back in 2010 and I gave my copy to a friend. I look forward reading your opinions. It is one of my favorite books in recent years.

  7. poppy says:

    oh dear, checked it out of the library and now not so sure i want to waste my time.
    does it go into detail about the houses and furniture?
    maybe a skim through?
    she has terrible taste in men.

  8. Nicole says:

    There is no way I have time to read anything that doesn’t come in bite sized portions. These reviews were pretty amusing though. Please keep the book club up… I like reading about these books I’m never going to read!

  9. Tig says:

    Strongly recommend Unbroken-what an amazing story, and so well written! Based on these reviews, will skip this one.

  10. Santolina says:

    I liked Keaton’s first book but life is too short and my book list is too long to waste time with this one. Thanks for the thoughtful reviews, you three!

  11. mia girl says:

    Thanks for the review ladies.
    Who knew the title inadvertently describes the book!

  12. Suze says:

    Thanks for taking one for the team here, ladies.

    Honestly, I *tried* to read it but it was so self-indulgent and wandered everywhere, I gave up at about page 40.

    Pity, I like Keaton. I do think she should retire the typewriter now, though.

  13. Nimbolicious says:

    “I’m Diane Keaton, kooky and proud of it! Yay!” Meh. She didn’t need a whole book in which to proclaim this, IMHO.

  14. Pam says:

    Unbroken is my favorite book next to Shantaram! Read it now before the movie comes out so your imagination can see it before Jolie’s version comes out. I’m sure she’ll do a great job though.

  15. Lahdidahbaby says:

    I felt bad not to have read this in time, but now think I’ll definitely skip it. I used to adore Diane and her quirky life and fashion choices, but lately am finding it hard to look past her public adoration of Woody and seeming de facto conviction that his accuser is lying. Honestly, though I love a good biography or autobio on my own time, for book club discussions I far prefer literary novels because it’s so much more fun discussing and critiquing a book when the writing itself, the pacing of the narrative, and the creative work of constructing a believable universe are what drives the conversation, rather than talking about the life of a celebrity. For that I always have the Celebitchy site, which is really the savviest and smartest celeb news and discussion site around.

  16. Klaw says:

    I can’t stand her acting. Nails on a chalkboard. I’m certain the book is just as bad, or even worse.

  17. Caz says:

    Great reviews. Straight to the points…no fillers. Thanks for not encouraging me to waste my time on this book. Life’s too short to waste it on rubbish books.

    • jane16 says:

      Yes, thanks for the reviews, appreciate it. I wouldn’t buy her book anyway cuz I don’t much like her, but my curiosity is satisfied. I have met her a few times. I dated a relative of hers before I married and once sat next to her at a wedding dinner. She is very uncomfortable to be around, mainly becuz of her insecurity about her looks. At the time of the wedding, I was modeling & considered to be good looking, and she kept talking about my looks, sometimes in a complimentary way, but usually not. It was really weird.

  18. Mel says:

    My admiration for her fell sharply because of the astonishing amount of attention – and ANY attention at all would have been an astonishing amount – she gave to a frickin’ IMDB-user-compiled list (or, more accurately, an IMDB-typical-LOSER-compiled list) of what he (an anonymous creature amongst millions) thought were ten actresses “who are ugly no matter what Hollywood says” (or something to that effect). A list, I might add, that featured Angelina Jolie at nro. 1.

    I couldn’t believe she even *registered* said list, let alone pay any attention to it.
    But she did.
    (Said IMDB-loser-user must be very happy.)

    And I thought she was an intelligent, confident (and good-looking) woman!

  19. Mel says:

    BTW, why don’t you choose Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things” for the book club?
    Now there’s a “feminist” book in the most subtle and profound sort of way!

  20. aqua says:

    It looks like you picked a really good book for next month.I’ve just finshed reading the reviews of the book Unbroken on Chapter/indigo website and their was not ONE negative review.Everyone said it was a very tough but worthwhile read.I’ve been one of those people who were enthusiastic about starting the book club but I just haven’t been able to keep up.This book however sound like it”s worth it.

  21. lucy says:

    Thanks for the coverage, everyone. I am still interested in reading both of Diane’s books. I am disappointed to hear that many of you have gotten the sense Keaton has arrested personal development, though, if that is the case. The differences in who people are, how they come across, how people think of themselves and present themselves, and their public personae intrigue me enough to want to look a bit closer at this for myself anyway.

  22. joan says:

    Thanks for saving me the bother of reading her books!

    Just to be picky: Celebitchy said, “she espouses on the concept of beauty” — I don’t think this means what you think it means.

  23. DrFunkenstein says:

    Never, ever, got her. She was touched by the magic wand when she landed Godfather, and Woody’s eight-grade crush on her is the only reason anyone saw her beyond that franchise. Always struck me as the “I’m the next-door neighbor’s mom” character type.

  24. Mikeyangel says:

    God I hated it. I could only get about 30% through. It was terrible. I read The Goldfinch instead, which was a pretty good read. I think Diane is as much a narcissist as the rest now and I always appreciated her quirkiness before. Such a vain woman. Ugh! Wish I didn’t spend the $11.