Within two weeks of reading Roger Ebert's autobiography Life Itself, I lost a law school
classmate, a friend and business associate of nearly 20 years, and a cousin, all of whom died suddenly and without warning. It made Ebert's book and his reflections about life all the more poignant.
Live Itself is a stunning accomplishment - not just for the very act of
writing a book with all the maladies that Roger Ebert was suffering at
the time - but for the book, the life it recounts, and the soul it
From the delicious humor of a chapter dedicated to the
perfection of Steak and Shake, to recounting of long walks through
London and Venice, to the remarkable people with whom his life was
filled (including Gene Siskel, Studs Terkel, Russ Meyer and Robert Mitchum), this
book is to be treasured. The story of Mitchum, his agent &
Ebert trying to find a closed workhouse outside Pittsburgh where Mitchum
was shooting a movie that he signed up for by mistake is laugh-out-loud
funny. So too is the story of a bathtub resurrection scene envisioned by Ebert and filmed by Meyer for a vampire skinflick, only for the scene to end up on the cutting room floor while the off-chance filming of nearby truckers recruited to carry the bathtub to a precarious hilltop perch made it to the screen.
And above all, Ebert tells of the love of his life, his wife
But in the end, it is Roger Ebert who is the most amazing
person in these pages. With the end clearly in sight (Ebert died in April of this year), he reflects on an illness that took away his ability to eat,
to drink, to converse, or to take those treasured long walks. He misses food, but misses the social aspect of dining with friends more. He misses his walks, but can reconstruct them step by step from his memory. Remarkably, he still
finds contentment and happiness.
Ebert concludes the book by contemplating his own mortality and
the greater questions of Man's place among the universe. He does so with a calmness
of vision, a clarity of thought, and without fear.
Ebert takes an honest look at himself, his travels, his
family and friends and -- at life itself. And in doing so, he makes all
of us the richer for it.
If you are looking for a book to read as summer moves so quickly into autumn, consider Life Itself. It is well worth reading.