A Personal Reflection on the Roger Ebert Story

Yesterday at work a RSS headline crossed my screen that caught my eye, and I clicked on it thinking I would take a quick glance–Roger Ebert gets his voice back: “Uncanny. A good feeling.” which led me to the Esquire article: Roger Ebert: The Essential Man. Little did I expect I would get drawn down the rabbit hole with a story that really moved me.

I have followed Roger for many years. Not being from the Chicago area where his articles were printed, I was first introduced to Roger in the early days of the movie review program “At the Movies” and “Siskel and Ebert.” Later, in the early days of the Internet, I found their individual  movie reviews posted on the their respective newspaper sites. Siskel’s reviews were…well, let’s just say his stronger suit was articulating his reviews on television. Ebert, while very articulate on the show,  introduced me to a whole ‘nother level with his writing. Early on, I was unaware of his Pulitzer Prize, but discovered on my own why he earned one.

Reading his reviews, I noticed that Roger has this knack for a sometimes rambling–almost tangential–style that I normally would find irritating in other writers, but for him it worked. Even in times when I would disagree with his reviews, I usually found I would still enjoy them. Very few writers can do that for me.

Within his style, he would often capture a subtle essential point of a movie and turn it into a thoughtful reflection on our everyday lives in a way  that I could never have articulated.  What I had come to appreciate with Roger is that he sometimes moved me in ways I had only experienced with great novel writers. How could a “non-fiction” writer do that? It always amazed me.

A few years ago I had noticed his writing had dropped off for a time, and I had heard rumblings of his struggle with cancer (I am not one to follow celebrity gossip, so I was somewhat oblivious). When his reviews would begin trickling in, I would tune in to see if I could find more “aha moments” with Roger and his writing.

I have to admit the Esquire article really moved me. Maybe it’s learning the depth of what cancer has robbed of him. Maybe it’s knowing someone of his talent can continue in spite of the enormous challenges. Maybe it’s just because he writes from a recliner just like I do (less dramatic reasons for me: arthritis). Whatever it is, I am glad he took the risk to open up his world to us. I hope you continue writing for a long time, Roger.

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