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A Paper Life Hardcover – October 12, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 201 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At age 10, O'Neal became the youngest Oscar winner in history for her performance in Paper Moon. In this honest, disturbing memoir, O'Neal, now 41, reveals the behind-the-scenes story of her lonely, chaotic life—one dominated by struggles with drugs and damaging relationships. O'Neal portrays her divorced parents (actors Joanna Moore and Ryan O'Neal) as neglectful and abusive, with drug problems of their own. Though O'Neal appeared in such kid-fodder movies as The Bad News Bears and Little Darlings, she says that during the '70s and early '80s she battled depression and attempted suicide. "I found that coke made me feel so much better," she recounts in the straightforward though unoriginal language that characterizes the narrative. Much of the book's second half covers her fraught marriage to volatile tennis champ John McEnroe; these passages alternate between recollections of the pleasure of being in love and having children and the pain of living with McEnroe, whom she depicts as controlling and demeaning. Ten years and three children later, O'Neal and McEnroe divorced. She resumed using drugs, fought child custody battles and watched her mother die of cancer. Although O'Neal speeds through the details, she addresses her addictions: "I wanted to take my own life but... instead... I started doing drugs 24/7. I couldn't stop." She also zips through her recovery, abruptly claiming "rebirth" in the final chapter. Writing this memoir seems to have been cathartic for O'Neal. Perhaps reading it will provide inspiration to other abuse victims and addicts.
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“A Paper Life, her slash-and-burn family album about…oh, go read it. You know you want to.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

“I know memoirs are always described as ‘explosive,’ but this one really is.” (Liz Smith)

“In her red-hot tome, O’Neal dishes on the...Hollywood of the 1970s - in all its raunchiness.” (Daily News)

“If an Academy Award were handed out for the most scorching family drama, it could certainly go to Tatum O’Neal...” (USA Today)

“In her bombshell autobiography...Tatum O’Neal...names names...while telling, for the first time, an eye-popping story...” (People)

“Forget ‘Mommie Dearest;’...it looks as if Tatum O’Neal’s A PAPER LIFE...might be the new classic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“In this honest, disturbing memoir, O’Neal...reveals the behind-the-scenes story of her lonely, chaotic life... (Publishers Weekly)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperEntertainment; First Edition edition (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060540974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060540975
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

The youngest actress ever to win an Academy Award, Tatum O'Neal has been a public figure for the last three decades. An actress, author, and the mother of three children, she makes her home in Los Angeles, California.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book made for page turning reading. After learning about the childhood of Tatum O'Neil, I had to literally pause to absorb what I had just read. That this woman is alive today and functioning (by any definition) is a miracle. Overall, a fascinating read despite some of the uneven recounting of Tatum O'Neil's life story. Despite the neglect and abuse at her mother's hand, Tatum has forgiven her mother and the love she feels comes shining through each page that remembers her mother's later years in life. Even her ex-husband (although this portion of the book felt like it was written in reaction to John MacEnroe's book) was dealt with objectively. However, her father - Ryan O'Neal - is a whole other story! The anger she still feels toward her father is almost tangible. You need to read this book to find out if it is warranted....... Made me stop and think just how important parenting really is to any child. I don't even want to think about what life was like for her brothers Griffin and Redmond. The only gripe I had was the jump in timeline from childhood to marriage. I would have liked to hear more about the Ryan/Farrah factor in her life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the liveliest star autobiographies I have read since the late John Phillips' "Papa John." Phew, who knew that the spunky little girl who became the youngest Oscar winner ever was living a childhood from Hell, saddled with a hopelessly, helplessly alcoholic mother and a father, the actor Ryan O'Neal, who emerges here as one of the most abusive parents in Hollywood, a monster right up there with Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby. If it wasn't bad enough that she had a selfish, self-absorbed, verbally and physically abusive father with a serious anger management problem, then, as Freud could have foretold, she chose the same kind of selfish, self-absorbed hothead to marry -- John McEnroe. What a loser this guy is, former "number one tennis player in the world" or not! Also portrayed in a bad light is Farrah Fawcett, who enabled Ryan O'Neal in their relationship for many years and apparently failed to intervene when he would rage and beat up his children in front of her. She must have a terribly low self-esteem also to have tolerated this abusive goon for so long! Now I hear that Farrah is about to have a reality TV series on a cable channel, the highlight of which is scheduled to be her marriage to Ryan! I hope readers of this book will have the decency to give this series and these two pathetic excuses for human beings a wide, wide berth, just as viewers turned away in droves from McEnroe's recent talk show. Bleahhh... It's time we demand some accountability for their actions from our celebrities, as well as our lying politicians and steroid-abusing athletes. At any rate, it's a wonder that Tatum survived her upbringing, apparently due to the positive influence of a twelve-step program.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I read this with my mouth hanging open. I mean, I knew Ryan O'Neal was a terrible father, but I had no idea just how terrible.

My grandmother was an entertainment journalist and a close friend of Tatum O'Neal's mother, Joanna Moore. I played with Tatum and Griffin when we were all children -- pre-"Paper Moon"- and I remember Tatum as a vibrant, funny, happy child.

But this was before Ryan O'Neal cheated on Joanna Moore, dumped her, and eventually succedded in having her locked up in a mental health facility for a period of time. He also actively conspired to prevent her from having ANY contact with her own children, something he was able to accomplish by virtue of his (then) considerable power in Hollywood.

I remember listening to Joanna Moore sobbing on my grandmother's couch as my grandmother promised to try to reason with Ryan and get him to allow her to see her children. She also had to help Joanna get to talk to her kids on their birthdays by placing calls to boarding schools on her behalf since Ryan O'Neal had forbidden school authorities to allow Joanna to talk to the kids.

How horrible and ironic that all these years later, John McEnroe decided to punish Tatum O'Neal for her own (admitted) drug problems by attempting to remove her from her kids' lives altogether. And once again, as the man with the bigger career and bigger bank account, he was able to do the same thing that Ryan O'Neal did to Joanna Moore.

This book is fast paced, cleanly written and brutally honest. Of course many people won't want to believe it or will call Tatum O'Neal a liar, but that's what happens to many, if not most, survivors of childhood abuse of all kinds.

Best of luck to Tatum and her children from my family.

Katie Allison Granju

Knoxville, TN
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Format: Hardcover
I just read a review just posted and it was brilliant unfortunately Lillian Fields you spelled O'Neal wrong but it didn't matter the message was received. I, too, was around the O'Neal family when Tatum and Griffin were growing up. Tatum told just enough in this book, she did not "bare all" as they say. She couldn't have safely not with Ryan still around. We know that. I am so sorry that Griffin and Tatum had to suffer such ordeals throughout their childhood but if it's true what they say that we pick our parents - somehow - we have to learn to refocus on what is good. We learn to leave the pain behind us, as Tatum clearly has and move forward. This chapter of Tatum's life is now clearly behind her. As far as her father, Ryan's obnoxious comments in People and Us Magazines about Tatum's book - I think he sounds so pompous, so angry and is so obviously lying that the public can see right through him. He is actually worse than Tatum wrote him to be and that is most likely because he is her father and she will always be his daughter no matter how badly he abused her. I will never be able to wash away my own firsthand memories of his responses to her success as an actress. Sometimes it is hard to forgive and forget. I think the best we can do sometimes is just hope to forget.
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