Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

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by Diane Keaton

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From Academy Award winner and bestselling author Diane Keaton comes a candid, hilarious, and deeply affecting look at beauty, aging, and the importance of staying true to yourself—no matter what anyone else thinks.
Diane Keaton has spent a lifetime coloring outside the lines of the conventional

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From Academy Award winner and bestselling author Diane Keaton comes a candid, hilarious, and deeply affecting look at beauty, aging, and the importance of staying true to yourself—no matter what anyone else thinks.
Diane Keaton has spent a lifetime coloring outside the lines of the conventional notion of beauty. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, she shares the wisdom she’s accumulated through the years as a mother, daughter, actress, artist, and international style icon. This is a book only Diane Keaton could write—a smart and funny chronicle of the ups and downs of living and working in a world obsessed with beauty.
In her one-of-a-kind voice, Keaton offers up a message of empowerment for anyone who’s ever dreamed of kicking back against the “should”s and “supposed to”s that undermine our pursuit of beauty in all its forms. From a mortifying encounter with a makeup artist who tells her she needs to get her eyes fixed to an awkward excursion to Victoria’s Secret with her teenage daughter, Keaton shares funny and not-so-funny moments from her life in and out of the public eye.
For Diane Keaton, being beautiful starts with being true to who you are, and in this book she also offers self-knowing commentary on the bold personal choices she’s made through the years: the wide-brimmed hats, outrageous shoes, and all-weather turtlenecks that have made her an inspiration to anyone who cherishes truly individual style—and catnip to paparazzi worldwide. She recounts her experiences with the many men in her life—including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Sam Shepard—shows how our ideals of beauty change as we age, and explains why a life well lived may be the most beautiful thing of all.
Wryly observant and as fiercely original as Diane Keaton herself, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a head-turner of a book that holds up a mirror to our beauty obsessions—and encourages us to like what we see.

Praise for Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

“Behind the sterling movie credits and tomboyish wardrobe, we see a soulful and deep woman contemplating the narrative arc of her own life.”Newsweek
“Delicious writing . . . This book is like a dishy lunch with the movie star you thought you’d never be lucky enough to meet. . . . Diane Keaton is in a class by herself and this book is good for the soul.”—Liz Smith, Chicago Tribune
“She’s talented, iconic, quirky . . . and wonderfully blunt. This is just a small sampling of the reasons we love Diane Keaton, and they all permeate the pages of her new memoir.”—Elle
“As disarming and personable as the actress herself.”—The Huffington Post
“Wise, witty, thoughtful, uplifting, the truth, unvarnished—and very funny.”Toronto Star

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Editorial Reviews

While other actresses lean forward in the first row of every passing fashion show, Academy Award winner Diane Keaton remains true decade after decade to her quirky bowler hat and signature style. In a Hollywood world of facial nips and tucks and breast implants, she moves forward, impervious to trendy reconstructions. Her latest memoir stands as her buoyant response to our culture's weird pursuit of a feminine beauty that somehow defies aging. Filled with stories about her close brushes with style professionals, style pundits, and thong merchants, Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty may not be pretty, but it certainly is entertaining. A Barnes & Noble bestseller in hardcover; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

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As I throw my coat on the chair, I see Alexander Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Abraham Lincoln hanging on my living room wall. My first impression of President Lincoln came from a book I checked out of the Bushnell Way Elementary School library, Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House, by Sterling North. In it President Lincoln fought to free the slaves. He was a great man who paid the ultimate price. Mr. North described Pres-ident Lincoln as unsightly, even homely. To a ten-year-old girl, that meant President Lincoln was ugly. I didn’t understand how an ugly man could become the president of the United States. Gardner’s photograph, taken just days before Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre, contradicts North’s description of a man who got shortchanged in the looks department.

Dominated by a pair of eyes set in darkness, Lincoln’s face is magnificent. His left eye, engaged by what it sees, looks out with endless empathy, while his right eye tells a story that is harder to comprehend. The bottom half of his face, framed by two deep lines, singles out his prominent nose, but it’s those eyes, particularly the left eye, the caring eye, the engaged eye, that is so compelling. Or is it? As my own eyes drift across Lincoln’s wide forehead, I look back into the right eye, the one drawn toward reflection, and you know what I see? I see the darkness of a great calling.

Did President Lincoln’s face become magnificent because he accepted a grave responsibility that would lead to a tragic end? Or was it the angle of Mr. Gardner’s pose, the light, the patina? Was it good luck or a fortunate mistake? After living with Mr. Lincoln’s portrait for several years, I’ve come to this conclusion: his beauty, like the hidden cast of his right eye, became identifiable only after I included “unsightly” as a possible way of describing a beautiful face.

Sharing wall space with Abraham Lincoln are forty-seven other portraits of men I’ve collected over twenty-five years. I call them my prisoners. There’s Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait of the artist Francesco Clemente, who presents his hands from under a black coat. There’s Marion Robert Morrison’s face before he became John Wayne. On the bottom left, Tony Ward is painted with mud. His hands frame his eyes. Maybe he’s sick of looking out from under the dirt. Maybe he doesn’t want to be painted into a shadow; maybe he’s tired of being Herb Ritts’s favorite model. The face of the Russian revolutionary and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky stares out in shaved-head resistance. He brings up longings. I’d carry his coattails. I’d be his lackey. Next to the kitchen door, Elvis Presley is sticking his tongue into a young woman’s mouth. I never understood why he made millions of girls cry until I saw Albert Wertheimer’s Kiss in an ad for Sam Shepard’s play Fool for Love.

Which brings up Sam Shepard, who is framed dead center among the other prisoners on my wall. I was thirty-one when I went to a matinee of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven at Cinema 1 on Third Avenue between Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth Streets in Manhattan. The movie seemed to glide though a brilliantly lit travelogue until Sam Shepard walked onto the screen and took my breath away. His face bore the imprint of the West in all its barren splendor. For years, I followed Sam’s life from the safety of distance, a fan’s distance. He was the playwright of Buried Child and True West. He worked with Bob Dylan. He was married. He fell out of marriage, and into love with Jessica Lange. He wrote, “When you’re looking for someone, you’re looking for some aspect of yourself, even if you don’t know it. What we’re searching for is what we lack.” And that’s the way it was. Some aspect of him was an aspect in me, an aspect I hadn’t developed, something I lacked. Or so I thought.

As life would have it, Sam slipped into the background until ten years later, when I inadvertently came across his face on a fifty-cent eight-by-ten glossy I bought at the Rose Bowl swap meet. The photograph was not exceptional except for one thing: Sam’s face. That damn face. A day doesn’t go by without a glance his way.

Gary Cooper also came to me in motion, but he wasn’t beautiful. What he was, was old. I saw him walking a dusty town’s deserted street toward four killers in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 motion picture High Noon. The movie was told in “real time,” a time where events happened at the same rate that my ten-year-old eyes experienced them. Everything about the movie seemed super real. On Gary Cooper’s wedding day to Grace Kelly, he had a choice: he could either ride into the horizon with his pretty new bride or stay and face the killers. As a girl I didn’t think about Gary Cooper’s looks, or the difference between Grace Kelly’s age and his. I didn’t care. Would he ever see her again? Would he die? Did he have to be so brave? I remember their goodbye. I remember Tex Ritter singing “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’.” I remember crying. Looks weren’t the issue. Courage was. I didn’t know that courage was a form of beauty, but I must have felt it.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered Cecil Beaton’s photograph of a thirty-year-old drop-dead-gorgeous Gary Cooper. Beaton did more than document the awe-inspiring good looks; he somehow captured Gary Cooper’s awkward lack of calculation, his sweetness. Sometimes I compare the portraits of Gary Cooper and Sam Shepard. One photograph is of a man my age, still alive, still Sam. The other is an image of a legend I never met. Gary Cooper’s photograph is the work of an artist. Sam Shepard’s photograph is just another glossy eight-by-ten. Both, however, set off memories of milestone moments in movie theaters.

John Wayne’s is the youngest, most irresistible face framed behind glass. It’s ironic that he would become the ultimate symbol of the American male. There’s no hint of aspiration in his expression. He seems almost perplexed by the idea that someone is taking his picture. How could a football player from Glendale have imagined donning a big old ten-gallon hat for some guy with a Rolleiflex dangling around his neck? Before Gary Cooper and Sam Shepard, it was John Wayne, the Duke, who would walk through the western landscape and into the heart of Joan Didion, who describes him best: “We went three and four afternoons a week, sat on folding chairs in the darkened Quonset hut which served as a theater, and it was there, that summer of 1943 while the hot wind blew outside, that I first saw John Wayne. Saw the walk, heard the voice. Heard him tell the girl in a picture called War of the Wildcats that he would build her a house, ‘at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.’ As it happened I did not grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to love, they have never been John Wayne, and they have never taken me to that bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow. Deep in that part of my heart where the artificial rain forever falls that is still the line I wait to hear.”

All three men came and went as they walked through time on the screen. All three acted out stories written for the entertainment of the masses, particularly women like me. All three are icons. Now they’re incarcerated on my wall, where their beauty continues to evolve. Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Sam Shepard still take me to Joan Didion’s “bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.” They still give me hope for a house that can never be—a home that exists only in my dreams.

Warren Beatty is not one of the prisoners on my wall. He is a person I loved in real time, not reel, and not in a photograph. Real-life Warren was a collector’s item, a rare bird. He lived in a three-room, eight-hundred-square-foot penthouse on top of the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Littered with books and scripts, the place was not fancy. Yet he owned an unfinished Art Deco estate on a hilltop, and he claimed he was going to make it his home. He was always late and always meeting people, and always, always, always working on a script. He had aspirations I couldn’t begin to contemplate. You have to remember, I was Annie Hall. At that point I was happy to act in movies, not produce, star, and direct them while contemplating a political career. One moment Warren was stunning, especially from the right side; the next, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. These variables kept me curious. Was he a beauty or wasn’t he?

Yes. Warren was a beauty. That stood out with particular intensity during our bittersweet breakup. And wouldn’t you know it, it revolved around a photograph I saved but couldn’t find to put on my wall.

I was in Germany working on George Roy Hill’s The Little Drummer Girl in the early eighties. It was a difficult shoot. Picking me to play a British actress who finds herself embroiled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was bad casting. Picture the poster: a silhouette of Diane Keaton with unusually well-endowed curves leaning against a semiautomatic rifle. Today you can buy it on eBay for a dollar ninety-nine, which is just about what The Little Drummer Girl made at the box office.

No matter how hard I tried to look butch holding an Uzi assault weapon or to master an English accent, I failed. To make matters worse, Warren and I weren’t speaking. On my days off, I would wander around Munich feeling sorry for myself. One Sunday at a flea market I came across a big picture book on the films of Warren Beatty. I bought it. Back in the hotel room, I cut out a picture of Warren from Bonnie and Clyde, folded it into small squares, put Warren in my jacket pocket, and brought him to work the next day. Before a particularly emotional scene, I took it out, unfolded Warren, and touched his face with my fingers. When I put my lips to his, all those months of straining for a crumb of feeling came flooding back. That’s what Warren’s face on the page of a broken-down book printed on cheap paper did to me before I shot a scene from The Little Drummer Girl.

At some point I lost the photo. In a way, I’m glad I did. It doesn’t belong with my other convicts. Warren was not a fantasy to ponder. I knew him well. He was not a mystery to contemplate. Sometimes I wonder if he enjoyed his beauty. Did he like what the mirror reflected? He knew that his pretty face, set on that masculine body, blessed with a great mind, would continue to seduce legions of women with incredible success decade after decade after decade. But did he know that, like all gifts, it came with a price tag?

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Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure I like this, still reading it. I liked Then Again much more. One of the things I love about Diane Keaton is that she is unique and seems so self-confident. The book tells a different side of her that I'm not sure I want to hear about. It makes me a little uncomfortable to read, seems like alot of complaining. However, I'm not sorry I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading Keaton. Her books read easily. I don't have to keep re-reading the words to visualize the story.    She tells the stories so perfectly that I feel like I was there. She is talented on screen AND on paper.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would not recommend this book. Very flighty!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Diane Keaton is at the top of my short list of favorite actresses. I like her quirkiness and she feels like someone I could be friends with and have good conversations with. That said, I enjoyed this book. As a woman, I can understand her insecurities, as a woman turning 40 with no hope of children of my own, I can understand her adopting at 50 and I enjoy reading about the children and her turn at motherhood. I also read her first book ,Then Again, and loved it too. It is safe to say I enjoy learning about her, so I will read all of her books, however many she chooses to write.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book but I think that Then Again was better. Keaton tended to ramble on and on too much about aging and her many anxieties. Though I have to admit I have some of those same anxieties about aging. She does treat her ex boyfriends with kindness and does not trash them like many celebrity all tell books. Her mind is never resting and that is a good thing. We should all be doing that.
Apache36 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy Diane Keaton as an actress, but this book was a big waste of money.  She is so self-centered!   I feel bad for her children.  It makes for a tuff life emotionally when a parent is like this.  Don't bother with this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to a funny bio. But found a dull narrative about growing older, discussions about her wrinkled skin, her vision, her hearing, her clothing choices, etc. Boring and EXTREMELY redundant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and started reading it right after I finished reading Then Again. Diane Keaton has a style of writing that is easy to read and her stories show that she is just as normal as you or me. I appreciate that she is respectful of those she has worked with, lived with, and dealt with in her life. I think this is a great read, especially for women past their 40's.
bookgirl53 More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Diane Keaton and was thrilled to see that she had written another book, having enjoyed Then Again. Like other reviewers, I appreciate her quirkiness. I think she has some of the same anxieties that most women have as they age. However, I think she has it a little tougher than most since she is an actress and the way that the media is constantly critical of actresses looks. Nice to hear about her relationship with her kids. I agree, it is pleasant to read someone write of past loves and not trash them. She just seems like someone I could be friends with, and I hope she continues to write and make movies for her fans to enjoy. Love her smile!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Diane Keaton and loved this book. It's an honest reading into Diane's quirky personality and her life growing up.
Andrew_of_Dunedin 8 months ago
What is beauty? Diane Keaton addresses it in terms of physical beauty. Of behavior. Of attitude. And even of beliefs, and of inanimate objects … anything that might fall under the aegis of potentially being beautiful. (Mixed in with plenty of autobiographical tidbits, stories, and references to famous friends.) RATING: 3 1/2 stars, rounded to 4 stars. DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book free of charge without obligation, although the publisher did hope (without obligation) that I would be willing to read and review it for them.
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Diane Keaton was enjoyable as a summer reading book. She shows a good sense of humor. Unfortunately, she also shows her age.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ok, not great. although i was expecting more because i like her
Timco More than 1 year ago
Please save yourself the money you would spend on this book. There is nothing to be gained reading this. Decent actress, shallow self absorbed lady with issues. Worst book read in years.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with this book.  She obviously has problems with her self image. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was relating to every problem the character had & soived!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not worth two cents. I am so sorry I paid good money for the worst book I have ever read. I am in my seventies and have read thousands of books.