If you haven’t read Chris Jones’ profile of Roger Ebert in the lastest issue of Esquire Magazine, go there now. It’s incredibly affecting.
I remember my surprise a couple of years ago when I discovered how amazing Ebert’s written criticism is — like so many, I’d thought of him as the thumbs up/thumbs down guy, or as the guy my creative writing instructor at the University of Illinois, the unforgettable Rocco Fumento, used to brag had once been in his class. The U of I and I were not a good fit, and that class summed up many of the reasons why, and so, for years, I unfairly assumed that Ebert too must be somehow second-rate. The idiocy of youth.
So when I was trying to learn to write book reviews, I got Ebert’s books out of the library. If you haven’t, already, you should go get yourself a copy of The Great Movies or The Great Movies II. They’re brilliant, enormous fun to read, and a real education in modern movies. He’s a brilliant writer, who has the unlikely ability to critique a genre while always allowing his deep love for it to shine through.
Ebert’s been all over the place lately. If you’re not following his twitter feed, you should be. It’s delightful and surprising and kind. I caught him on Oprah yesterday (trivia item — Roger Ebert and Oprah dated back in the day!), and at the end of the piece, he had this to say about the ordeal he’s been through the past several years:
“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 I am happy that I lived long enough to find it out.”
I think that’s going on the board above my desk.