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LIFE ITSELF by Roger Ebert

LIFE ITSELF

A Memoir

By Roger Ebert

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-446-58497-5
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

The Pulitzer Prize–winning film critic reviews his life and career, finding much to be grateful for.

Ebert (The Great Movies III, 2010, etc.) presents a disjunctive, impressionistic, episodic but often moving memoir. Throughout, he alludes to his current medical difficulties (cancer, several failed surgeries, the inability to speak or eat), though he focuses on them more sharply in the final chapters. He seems to have achieved a kind of peace, referring to himself as the Phantom of the Opera and, later, “an exhibit in the Texas Chainsaw Museum.” He begins in fairly conventional fashion, revisiting moments from his childhood and adolescence, but it’s not long before he abandons chronology. After his assumption of the film-critic gig at the Chicago Sun-Times (1967), he adopts a new strategy, offering stand-alone chapters about influential individuals in his life. Here we find the expected (Studs Terkel, Martin Scorsese), the unexpected (Russ Meyer, Lee Marvin) and the necessary (Gene Siskel). Ebert has a separate chapter devoted to his late critic partner from TV days, noting that he felt they were brothers, but competitive ones. Siskel then appears continually the rest of the way, a sort of touchstone to measure the value of some of Ebert’s experiences. The author deals candidly with his alcoholism (on the wagon since 1979, and he credits AA), his weight and his early-career arrogance. He also celebrates his wife, Chaz (he dedicates the volume to her), and in his chapter about her he praises her in about every possible way for every possible reason. He also examines his new career as a blogger.

Two thumbs sideways.