Books

A Paper Life

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A Paper Life
by Tatum O'Neal
(HarperEntertainment)

Who would ever think that a child star could turn out so fucked up? Hollywood seems like such a stable and nurturing place to raise children, chock full of positive role models and far, far away from drugs, booze and excess. RightÉ Tatum O'Neal's story, as she tells it in A Paper Life, is one of sorrow, rejection, neglect, and constant heartbreak. But pair that with her own tendency for tantrums and an addictive personality, then mix in some name-dropping gossip and you have the makings of a blistering tell-all. And tell-ALL she does, and boy is it juicy!

But A Paper Life is also memoir as catharsis, a psychological purging of sins, put out for all to see. The first third of the book revolves around O'Neal's early childhood just before and just after her involvement with the production of Peter Bogdanovich's film, Paper Moon. Prior to working on the film with her father, actor Ryan O'Neal, Tatum and her little brother Griffin led what can only be called a life of utter depravity. Their mother, a bi-polar, alcoholic, drug-addicted has-been, kept her clan sequestered on a dilapidated ranch outside Los Angeles, where Tatum, age 7, was drinking, smoking, and being molested by the various riff-raff left in charge of her and her brother. Her father eventually came to the rescue, but it seems it was only for personal gain. He was seeking the part of Mose in Paper Moon, and needed his real-life daughter to play Addie. When Tatum went on to win the Oscar at age nine for her role in the film, it unleashed a life-long rivalry between father and daughter that still exists today. One would think it would be difficult for a grown man to sustain a rivalry with a nine-year-old; not in Hollywood.

O'Neal airs out three decades of dirty laundry, dishing on her demented relationship with tennis tantrum king John McEnroe, her lifelong struggle with addiction, and her relationship with her own children, whom she credits as her saviors. A Paper Life is popcorn tabloid deliciousness, tinged with the horror that it actually happened. But it doesn't leave a bad, "poor pitiful Tatum" taste in your mouth. I finished it with admiration for her toughness and ability to transcend, and look forward to the next chapter in her still young, but incredibly illustrious paper life.

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