Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

Excellent feature about Roger Ebert’s bout with cancer. (Ebert’s own words on his cancer are also worth a read.)

When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.

is a wonderful writer, and today he is producing the best work of his
life. In 1975 he became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer
prize, but his TV fame saw most of his fans, at least those outside
Chicago, forget that he was a writer if they ever did know. (His
Pulitzer still hangs in a frame in his book-lined office down the hall,
behind a glass door that has THE EBERT COMPANY, LTD.: FINE FILM
CRITICISM SINCE 1967 written on it in gold leaf.) Even for Ebert, a
prolific author — he wrote long features on Paul Newman, Groucho Marx,
and Hugh Hefner’s daughter, among others, for this magazine in the late
1960s and early ’70s and published dozens of books in addition to his
reviews for the Sun-Times — the written word was eclipsed by
the spoken word. He spent an entire day each week arguing with Gene
Siskel and then Richard Roeper, and he became a regular on talk shows,
and he shouted to crowds from red carpets. He lived his life through

But now everything he says must be written, either
first on his laptop and funneled through speakers or, as he usually
prefers, on some kind of paper. His new life is lived through Times New
Roman and chicken scratch. So many words, so much writing — it’s like a
kind of explosion is taking place on the second floor of his
brownstone. It’s not the food or the drink he worries about anymore — I went thru a period when I obsessed about root beer + Steak + Shake malts,
he writes on a blue Post-it note — but how many more words he can get
out in the time he has left. In this living room, lined with thousands
more books, words are the single most valuable thing in the world. They
are gold bricks. Here idle chatter doesn’t exist; that would be like
lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Here there are only
sentences and paragraphs divided by section breaks. Every word has
meaning. —Chris Jones, Esquire

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