Introduction to Roger Ebert’s Memoir

Roger Ebert published the introduction to his memoir, Life Itself. I love that he traces the ark of his life through the necessity to communicate, first with the newspaper, then with his television show and finally through blogging and social media.

From summer 2006 to spring 2007 I’d essentially been in the hospital, but now I was walking again. Chaz took me down to the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, Florida, for exercise and nutrition; they’d liquefy their healthy diet for my G-tube. She marched me in the sunlight and lectured me on how my skin was manufacturing vitamin D. On the second or third day there, I stood up to get a channel- changer, my foot caught on a rug, and I fell and fractured my hip. We came back to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and after enduring the exquisite pain of putting weight on that hip two days after a rod was inserted, I returned to the Rehabilitation Institute to start learning to walk all over again for the fourth time.

That was in April 2008, when I’d been planning to attend the tenth annual Ebertfest, my annual film festival at the University of Illinois. I was plenty pissed off at myself for having broken my hip instead. Then and there, I wrote my first blog entry and began this current, probably final, stage of my life.

My blog became my voice, my outlet, my “social media” in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of. Into it I poured my regrets, desires, and memories. Some days I became possessed. The comments were a form of feedback I’d never had before, and I gained a better and deeper understanding of my readers. I made “online friends,” a concept I’d scoffed at. Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to. I didn’t intend for it to drift into autobiography, but in blogging there is a tidal drift that pushes you that way. Getting such quick feedback may be one reason; the Internet encourages first- person writing, and I’ve always written that way. How can a movie review be written in the third person, as if it were an account of facts? If it isn’t subjective, there’s something false about it.

The blog let loose the flood of memories. Told sometimes that I should write my memoirs, I failed to see how I possibly could. I had memories, I had lived a good life in an interesting time, but I was at a loss to see how I could organize the accumulation of a lifetime. It was the blog that taught me how. It pushed me into first- person confession, it insisted on the personal, it seemed to organize itself in manageable fragments. Some of these words, since rewritten and expanded, first appeared in blog forms. Most are here for the first time. They came pouring forth in a flood of relief.

Does it go without saying that the entire introduction is worth reading. Ebert’s memoir will be published on September 13.

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