Friday, July 06, 2012

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert

Like many people my age, I discovered film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times watching Sneak Previews, a PBS movie review program that paired him with Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune. I enjoyed their jolly and sometimes heated rivalry which framed an entertaining selection of clips from upcoming and recently released movies. They proved so popular that PBS could not keep them, and they started a syndicated program, which Bonnie and I watched on Saturdays right before Star Trek The Next Generation. The program later moved to Disney and ran until Siskel's death in 1999. Ebert tells much about his friendship with Siskel, their programs, and much, much more in Life Itself: A Memoir.

Ebert begins his collection of autobiographical essays with a description of his current life. Complications from thyroid cancer which has destroyed much of his jaw have left him unable to eat, drink, and speak since 2006. Still intent of reviewing films and commenting on life, he blogs and writes books. In this book, film fans will particularly enjoy his personal essays about actors and directors, including Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, Woody Allen, Russ Meyer, and Robert Altman. Ebert fans will enjoy the stories of his childhood and youth at the beginning and the later essays that deal with his current life and about finding love and a new family.

I listened to the memoir read brilliantly by Edward Herrmann, quickly forgetting that it was not Ebert's own voice recounting his life. Throughout Ebert is quite open about his family's problems, beating alcoholism, failed romances, and religious doubts, saying he has often been told that he "over-shares," but I found him refreshingly candid. I especially enjoyed hearing about his love of books and movies. 

Life Itself is highly entertaining, and many readers will identify with Ebert's family and school experiences (and wish they had his job). It can be found in many public libraries.

Ebert, Roger. Life Itself: A Memoir. Grand Central Pub., 2011. 436P. ISBN 9780446584975.

12 compact discs. AudioGO, 2011. ISBN 9781611137927.


Maggie Moran said...

Sounds great Rick! I also watched them when I was a kid. Movies were my life and I thought it cool I could agree or disagree from having seen some of the same movies -G or PG rated of course. :D Thx for th review!

ricklibrarian said...

I hope you enjoy it, Maggie.