Life For Life Essay

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daughter thus treated may grow up to hit the thank-you trifecta (therapist, co-writer, her own cherished children) as she evens the score. That's how Tatum O'Neal begins "A Paper Life," her slash-and-burn family album about ... oh, go read it. You know you want to. And thank Hollywood and hippies for the excesses that are described here (like a movie star dad who explains that marijuana is an herb, like parsley). Tara Bray Smith, whose "West of Then" describes growing up in Hawaii with a drug-addicted mother, has her own version of a trouble-in-paradise story. But as these two books illustrate, there's a difference between telling the truth and spilling the beans. Ms. Smith's book - which she wrote herself, hauntingly - conveys the real pain of having been abandoned by her heroin-addicted mother at age 7, and later trying to save her mother from homelessness in a public park. Ms. O'Neal's story is more devoted to celebrity, shock value and adroitly pious spite. Credit Ms. O'Neal, along with Elisa Petrini ("my loyal and courageous co-writer"), with a sharp, clear narrative and expert passive-aggressive tactics. This book begins by politely thanking Ms. O'Neal's ex-husband (John McEnroe) and father (Ryan O'Neal) for, as it turns out, nothing. (Each man has issued a terse public statement signifying "You're welcome.") Then it goes on to embrace such tactics as the granny-was-hooked-on-morphine casual aside and the "I've heard rumors" construction. ("I've heard rumors that she was molested by a member of her adoptive family, but my mother never spoke of it.") Sometimes she achieves the synchronized, two-parent swipe. "You see that?" she quotes her mother, the actress Joanna Moore, as saying. "That's where your father has been planting marijuana, so the cops will find it and arrest me." Although Ms. O'Neal has set her hair on fire by page 20, "A Paper Life"

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