"The best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written." - Janet Maslin, New York Times
"To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades.
In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career.
In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne and Martin Scorsese.
This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir -- it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.
It's hardly surprising that Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, begins this candid examination of an extraordinary life with an allusion to Ingmar Bergman's Persona, about an actress who loses her voice in mid-performance. Though three thyroid cancer surgeries resulting in the removal of his lower jaw have left Ebert unable to speak, eat, or drink, these are not famous last words. Forgoing a traditional linear format, each chapter particularly "My Old Man and "Big John Wayne could function as a stand-alone essay. Born in Urbana, Ill., in 1942, Ebert spent a carefree childhood, often with his nose in a book. Drawn to newspapers beginning in high school, he became the sports reporter for his school paper before rising to the rank of co-editor. The position of film critic fell into his lap at the Sun-Times a paper he joined after leaving a graduate English program and Ebert hasn't looked back. And while films have governed his life for close to 50 years, he wisely doesn't choose the greatest hits version of his reviewing career, focusing instead on the life he's lived in between screenings: his battle with alcoholism; tight-knit friendships forged in the newsroom (and bar); and his marriage to Chaz, whom he calls "the great fact of my life. Hollywood gets its due, but it's an ensemble player, sharing the screen with reminiscences both witty and passionate from one of our most important cultural voices.
Leaves you content. Not happy, or sad—just content.
I picked up this book in hopes of learning more about Ebert's ascension into the world of film criticism (my dream job). What I quickly learned was that his title was something that defined him to the public, but as a person he is so much more.
Sad and depressing at times. Motivational at others. A detailed glimpse into the moments that make a man and the events that leave him capable of calling it a day.
Roger Ebert's "Life Itself" is a must read for anyone with even the slightest interest in Roger Ebert. Ebert's autobiography is well written and the sections dedicated to his life (most of the book) are dramatically more interesting than those devoted to the legendary stars whom Ebert interviewed. For someone who rarely reads, this book was addicting. For someone who followed Ebert through the last few years of his life, this book is a celebration of all of the things that made Roger Ebert such an enriching character.
Good, but a bit disappointed
I'm a big fan of Ebert's film reviews, and was hoping that more of his film views and experiences would be folded into the narrative of his life. I liked the last third of the book best, where he opened up his inner life and let us in. Many earlier portions, on his drinking binges and buddies, became tiresome; way too many chapters on them. Also, while I enjoyed the first part of the book on his growing-up years, some of this could have been cut, especially the detailed chapters on his forebears. On the positive side, Ebert is a terrific writer, and his style was economical and lively at the same time. I wish, though, that some of the repetition across chapters was eliminated, and that each chapter had greater length. As Janet Maslin has pointed out, their origin in the blog format is all too obvious.
In the bigger picture, kudos to Ebert to living with such pluck and dignity in his changed condition. He is a courageous person!