Book Reviews,  Film & Television

Life Itself: A Memoir | Book Review

Life Itself: A Memoir | Book Review Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert
Original Publication Date: 2011
Genres: Illness, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: I purchased this book

Life Itself: Roger Ebert began reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967 and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades. In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career. In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir — it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.

Life Itself: A Memoir Tells The Story Of A Film Critic

Roger Ebert is a top film critic whose life was shattered by cancer. The various cancer treatments have left him unable to speak except through a computer.

He finally started a blog to write his thoughts down, and the blog posts have eventually morphed into this book.

Ebert tells the story of his life, starting with his childhood in Urbana, Illinois, and his education at The University of Illinois.

Roger Ebert Became A Top Film Critic

He fell in love with journalism and started writing for newspapers.

Roger was a long-time film buff. Het fell into film criticism when he was assigned film reviews by an editor.

He eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for his film criticism.

This book is interesting when he tells about his family and his complicated relationship with Gene Siskel, his follow critic on several television shows.

It is also interesting when he chats about some famous film stars and directors.

Ebert also goes into detail about some of his personal friends. I’m sure that these are nice, interesting, quirky people if you know them personally, but frankly, they aren’t too interesting to read about. Sometimes “colorful” characters fall flat on the printed page, especially if you don’t know them.

I wish that there had been more stories of the famous people Roger has known, and fewer stories of his personal friends. I also wish that he had discussed his favorite films in more detail and how they affected him, but I suppose his numerous books of film criticism fill the need for that.

Ebert also talks about his alcoholism, his many years of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and his devotion to the AA cause.

He mentions that one day he just stopped drinking. He didn’t know it was his last drink at the time.

I was wondering, however, when he KNEW he was an alcoholic and when he knew he had hit rock bottom. Perhaps he didn’t have a rock bottom.

Final Analysis

He doesn’t discuss the drinking bouts in any detail.

Perhaps the drinking was part of that whole hard-drinking reporter crowd. His mother also developed a drinking problem later in her life.

Ebert does discuss his great love for his wife, Chaz, and he was lucky to have her when numerous cancer operations and treatments when awry.

Fortunately, he had her and her extended family to give him comfort. If you are interested in films and a fan of Roger Ebert, you may well like this book.

But if you aren’t, you probably won’t find it that interesting.

His website is still up, with old reviews by Roger and new ones by a variety of critics.

You can also read my review of Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.

About Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic and screenwriter.

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