Talk Softly: A Memoir

Talk Softly: A Memoir

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by Cynthia O'Neal
     
 

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Actress and model Cynthia O'Neal was living her dream life—married to the famous stage and screen actor Patrick O’Neal, the mother of two young sons, resident of the Dakota downstairs from John Lennon, owner of the successful Ginger Man restaurant, and frequent guest at dinner parties with Leonard Bernstein and Rudolf Nureyev.
And then she changed

Overview

Actress and model Cynthia O'Neal was living her dream life—married to the famous stage and screen actor Patrick O’Neal, the mother of two young sons, resident of the Dakota downstairs from John Lennon, owner of the successful Ginger Man restaurant, and frequent guest at dinner parties with Leonard Bernstein and Rudolf Nureyev.
And then she changed course suddenly, surprisingly, and completely. The AIDS epidemic hit the arts community hard, and after seeing the multitude of people facing an unfamiliar and stigmatized disease completely alone, Cynthia walked into the fray. With the support of longtime friend Mike Nichols, she founded Friends in Deed and soon found herself spending her days in hospitals, cramped rooms, and dirty apartments, anywhere a patient needed a hug, a hand held, or confidence boosted. And when Patrick became ill and passed away in 1994, Cynthia had to work through her own grief instead of someone else’s and found her life transformed again.
Talk Softly is the story of a life well-lived—with passion and compassion, in celebration of the joy of each moment, and with the ability to surprise yourself when you least expect to.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The author, a life-threatening-illness support leader and wife of the late actor Patrick O'Neal, recalls a roller-coaster life that steadied into meaningful depth. With a light hand, O'Neal makes it clear that her life could have taken her to a very different place than where she is now as an emotional-support figure at Friends In Deed, a crisis center for critically ill people that she founded. Before she met her husband she was already an actress and successful model, and he brought just that much more glamour to her days. They lived in a series of envy-inducing apartments, moved in the company of tony friends and had the wherewithal to act on their desires. O'Neal recounts plenty of tribulations as well-her husband's drug and drinking problems, a son who appeared to be taking after his father, the deaths of friends and acquaintances, which began to steamroll as the AIDS epidemic made its way through her milieu of artists. The deaths tripped a switch. "I could not live with the idea that someone was ill, frightened, alone, and not try to do something about it," she writes. Any do-gooder suspicions are neatly laid to rest by O'Neal's frequent skirmishes with her motivations and her candor about her ill-preparedness for such passion. "I think crisis holds a real seduction for me, and certainly there is some magical thinking involved," she writes. "There's a primal place in me that thinks that if I do my very best to help other people in their crises, disaster will stay away from me and mine." Eventually, many of the "me and mine" became the men and women who found themselves at Friends In Deed, a handful of whom are profiled here with respect and honor. O'Neal made her share of mistakes,and her spiritual quest to face death is rocky, but she doesn't lose sight of those who benefit from her compassion. Tender, vulnerable portraits of family and friends.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609800796
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
769 KB

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Meet the Author

Born in Los Angeles, CYNTHIA O'NEAL modeled and appeared in films, including Carnal Knowledge and Primary Colors. In 1991 she founded Friends in Deed—The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness—which has helped transform many thousands of lives by providing emotional and spiritual support for anyone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening physical illnesses, where all services are free of charge. O'Neal currently lives in New York City.

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Talk Softly 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Elsie_Brooks More than 1 year ago
When I started reading Talk Softly, I was prepared to admire Cynthia O'Neal and want to be more like her: selfless, giving, humble. This was a good lesson in not judging a book, or the author, by its cover. The more I read, the more I felt that O'Neal's work was more about escaping her own life than helping others. I was woefully disappointed. I appreciated the fact that O'Neal called out her tendency to project onto the parents of AIDS patients her expectations for how to handle the situation. Her acknowledgment of this fact made O'Neal seem far less of the egoist than she appears to be in other chapters. Despite her words of grief, it seemed that she was far more distraught over John Lennon's murder than her own husband's death - or did she really just want the reader to know she lived in the same building? Either way, the Lennon aspect of O'Neal memoir makes her seem very shallow. O'Neal's reaction to Lennon's death is odd given thta she said she wished she could grieve over JFK's assination, like her maid, Lorretta, by throwing herself to the floor; but, instead she dealt with her grief by dining at The Plaza. Overall, O'Neal's narcissism outweighs the value of her message. While I do not doubt her passion, Talk Softly left me with the sense that O'Neal's success was most powerfully influencd by her social status.
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