Roger Ebert’s Last Words, con’t.

Ebert responds to Chris Jones’ article in Esquire.

Well, we’re all dying in increments. I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, but I don’t want them thinking I’m dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that’s just good writing. He wasn’t precisely an eyewitness the second evening after Chaz had gone off to bed and I was streaming Radio Caroline and writing late into the night. But that’s what I did. It may be, the more interviews you’ve done, the more you appreciate a good one. I knew exactly what he started with, and I could see where he ended, and he can be proud of the piece.

I mentioned that it was sort of a relief to have that full-page photo of my face. Yes, I winced. What I hated most was that my hair was so neatly combed. Running it that big was good journalism. It made you want to read the article.

I studiously avoid looking at myself in a mirror. It would not be productive. If we think we have physical imperfections, obsessing about them is only destructive. Low self-esteem involves imagining the worst that other people can think about you.

02.21.2010Tagged with:    

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

Esquire has a great piece on Roger Ebert, the lion in winter.

Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it.

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear,” he writes in a journal entry titled ‘Go Gently into That Good Night.’ “I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”

There has been no death-row conversion. He has not found God. He has been beaten in some ways. But his other senses have picked up since he lost his sense of taste. He has tuned better into life. Some things aren’t as important as they once were; some things are more important than ever. He has built for himself a new kind of universe. Roger Ebert is no mystic, but he knows things we don’t know.

“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. 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.”

02.18.2010Tagged with:    

I met a character from Dickens

Roger Ebert laments the tearing down of 22 Jermyn Street in London, the hotel he frequented for some 25 years. It’s chock-full of wonderful, vivid descriptions of everything from the neighboring shops to his first visit to the hotel.

I had just settled in my easy chair when a key turned in the lock and a nattily-dressed man in his 60s let himself in. He held a bottle of Teachers’ scotch under his arm. He walked to the sideboard, took a glass, poured a shot, and while filling it with soda from the siphon, asked me, “Fancy a spot?”

“I’m afraid I don’t drink,” I said.

“Oh, my.”

This man sat on my sofa, lit a cigarette, and said, “I’m Henry.”

“Am I…in your room?”

“Oh, no, no, old boy! I’m only the owner. I dropped in to say hello.”

It all sounds beautiful, and irreplaceable, which makes it sadder still that it’s being destroyed and replaced with “some obscene architectural extrusion,” as Ebert calls it.

02.15.2010Tagged with:    

Remembering John Lennon

Roger Ebert remembers John Lennon, December 10th, 1980, 2 days after the ex-Beatle was shot and killed in New York City.

The news that John Lennon was dead came as an immense shock, infinitely sad, because one was grieving not only for his death but for the death of an era, and for the Beatles songs that played all through that time, over and over, giving it texture and a bittersweet flavor. The silly, innocent songs, like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and the songs so deep they were poems, like “Eleanor Rigby,” and the albums that a generation scrutinized for secret messages.

What is most touching, when you remember how we used to study the album covers and try to listen between the words of the songs for the messages the Beatles had allegedly hidden there, was that we really believed the Beatles had a message worth listening for. At their height they commanded more ideological currency than all of the candidates in the last presidential campaign — not because they had more to say, but because they were in a world still eager to listen.

Now Lennon has been shot dead and the Beatles are no more. Ringo, Paul and George still live and the albums are still on the shelves, and Monday night all the radio stations were playing them over and over, but there is no kidding ourselves. The era they sang to, which hung on here and there long beyond its time, is over now.

12.10.2009Tagged with: