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Focus on the Family?

Notes On A Life by Eleanor Coppola

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If you’d surmise that the matriarch of this family would be flamboyant, commanding, and larger-than-life, then you’d be wrong. Eleanor’s writing style is quiet and reserved; she has the centered Zen energy of an observant monk. Ranging episodically over several decades, Coppola offers an honest portrait of middle age and marriage— she’s just turned 50 as her book begins in 1986. She has Wife Problems (a ubiquitous affliction compounded by the fact that she’s married to a genius)--- for decades she has put her husband and their family first and her own aspirations second. She ponders the choices she’s made:

"I have an ongoing internal war, a conflict between wanting to be a good wife and mother and also to draw, paint, design, write and shoot videos. I focus on the family and imagine there will be time for my interests, but there rarely is."

She’s an artist and a documentary filmmaker in her own right, but feels like an invisible shape-shifter. She overhears Tom Waits’ speaking on a movie set and acknowledges his wisdom ruefully. He says: “Family and career don’t like each other … one is always trying to eat the other. You’re always trying to find balance. But one is really useless without the other. What you really want is a sink and a faucet. That’s the ideal.”

There are some interesting Brando stories (“I felt as if I were standing in a special beam of light”), a fascination with numerology, some anecdotal references to Francis’ temper tantrums, a biography of the ancient psychic oak tree on The Niebaum- Coppola estate, and a bizarre account of a trip on Ellen Barkin’s preposterous yacht.

Coppola’s revelation of the enormous personal costs of being married and raising a family might be an emotional life raft for all wives and mothers, famous or otherwise.

Submitted by Jane @ King


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