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Life Itself: A Memoir | [Roger Ebert]

Life Itself: A Memoir

Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

"I believe that if, at the end, 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."
—from Life Itself

Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including 23 years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

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.

Roger Ebert's journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime's adventures.

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. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.

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.

©2011 Roger Ebert (P)2011 Hachette Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    loix Pittsburgh, PA, United States 09-18-11
    loix Pittsburgh, PA, United States 09-18-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "mixed feelings"
    What did you love best about Life Itself?

    Roger's rich life, straight from the horse's mouth.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Mr. Ebert's power of recall was a little frightening, but I certainly admire it, and the prose is just beautifully precise.


    What about Edward Herrmann’s performance did you like?

    I was almost inspired to listen to the Cheney memoir. The narration was spot on throughout, down to the different accents. I could even sense the slightest tinge of feeling in some of the more emotional passages.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    It ain't over till you stop living it.


    Any additional comments?

    Maybe I'm reaching for the moon here, but that's only because the author has already set the bar so high with his other writings. I am aware that redundancy is inherent in vignette-style memoirs such as this one, but I would have much preferred those repeats replaced with more anecdotes about the walks through his favorite haunts, great directors /actors, and movie/book references.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MERCEDES CHICAGO, IL, United States 12-04-11
    MERCEDES CHICAGO, IL, United States 12-04-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Roger Ebert Life Itself"
    What did you love best about Life Itself?

    Roger Ebert is such a well thought out and impassioned writer, and this book allows his writing to come through in a more personal manner. I found his life story to be an unlikely one, and I finished the book feeling like he was an old friend. I am also from Chicago, so it was fascinating for me to hear personal accounts about Chicago favorites like Studs Terkel and neighborhood places back in the day, as I listened to the audio book and ran through the city streets.

    Some chapters really stick out - like the one dedicated to Gene Siskel and, of course, the one about the love of Ebert's life, his wife Chaz. There were definitely moments that brought me to tears, and others that made me laugh out loud.

    Also the performance by Edward Herrmann is spot on. Sometimes, lost in the story, I actually forgot it wasn't Ebert narrating. I highly recommend this book!


    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SLW the Burgh 10-27-11
    SLW the Burgh 10-27-11 Member Since 2004
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    "Absorbing memoir, wonderful narration"

    Roger Ebert has astonishing recall, memorably evoking his childhood, his career, the people he has met, his alcoholism, his marriage to the spectacular Chaz, and his current doings. This is a warm and humorous (yes, I laughed out loud) story that has its serious side. It also boasts an excellent performance by Edward Herrmann, who often sounds a lot like the people whose conversations with Ebert he is portraying. I really enjoyed this.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Davis, CA, United States 11-17-12
    Bob Davis, CA, United States 11-17-12 Member Since 2004
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    "this book demonstrates the key role of the reader"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Life Itself to be better than the print version?

    Absolutely. I am sure if I had read the book,the long lists of names and places would have been cumbersome. What brought this book to live esd Edward Herrmann's pitch-perfect reading.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I enjoyed the stories and reference to movies and Ebert's positive attitude, but was carried me away into the story was Edward Herrmann. It was both calm and restrained and yet full of warmth and emotion.


    What does Edward Herrmann bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Uh, everything. Intelligence, feeling, drama - this dude is one of the great readers


    Any additional comments?

    did I mention how impressive Edward Herrmann was?

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 02-04-12
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 02-04-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Enjoyable autobiography"
    What did you love best about Life Itself?

    Some people earn the right to tell their story, and Roger Ebert certainly has. He does not brag or name drop; he remains in awe of his circumstance. He tells intersting and funny stories about the movie industry and theh people he grew close to.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Roger is down to earth. He reveals himself in an honest way.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Nanaimo, BC, Canada 12-25-12
    Don Nanaimo, BC, Canada 12-25-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Surprisingly good read"
    What did you love best about Life Itself?

    I found the book really brought me into his world and the times he grew up in. It was really great to listen to all the stories behind the movies, actors, and directors. If you are a movie buff, you'll like this aspect of the book.I also liked that he never pulled any punches. He tells it, warts and all.


    What does Edward Herrmann bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I found the narrator was just about perfect. His tone and cadence were bang on, and did not distract in any way.


    Any additional comments?

    It gave me a better understanding of the life of one of my favorite tv personalities. I also appreciate that even without the ability to speak, he is still connecting with his fan base in a great way.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Rumford, RI, United States 10-29-12
    Karen Rumford, RI, United States 10-29-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Enjoyable on every level"

    I loved everything about this book--the story of his life, Roger Ebert's wonderful writing style, and Edward Herrmann's flawless recording. There's a lot here for anyone who loves biography or memoir, and all the better if you're a film lover, because he treats us to some terrific profiles of the notable directors and actors he's met along the way. (I've never been a fan of a couple of the directors that Roger writes about in selected chapters, but I feel like I have a new insight into their work and will go back for a second look at some of those films.) I also have a new appreciation for and deep respect for the challenges Roger has faced in his life. He is a man of great depth, humor, intelligence, and compassion. The wonderful thing about an audio book is that you don't always have a sense of how far along you are in the work. I listened to this book over the course of several days and just got lost in it--in the best kind of way. If it had lasted another hundred hours, I would have loved every minute of it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Arlington, VA, United States 10-21-11
    Jennifer Arlington, VA, United States 10-21-11
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    "I wanted to like it more"

    I really respect Mr. Ebert and consider him hugely talented as a film critic and as a writer, but overall, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. It was too heavy on nostalgia and minutia, and as a previous reviewer noted there were many repetitions of portions of anecdotes and stories. I will say this, Mr. Ebert's ability to face his challenges and his own mortality with humor, strength, and optimism is very impressive--I just thought that the memoir was overall too sentimental for my tastes. The vocal performace is wonderful, though.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 05-31-13
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 05-31-13 Member Since 2010

    MTF

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    "Great parts and slow parts to this life story"

    I was a big fan of the Siskel and Ebert movie review TV show, and really looked forward to this memoir. I enjoyed the beginning which covered Roger Ebert as a child, high-schooler, and college student. I liked his early years as a reporter. But then there was about a 90 minute stretch which talked about places he loved in Europe. Not much about Ebert or other people, Just one place after another. It got really boring to me. Then, when Ebert gets into reviewing movies, there was one snippet after another about entertainers he meets. Not too interesting to me as I did not know too much about those people, nor care. I skimmed ahead a bit until I got the the Siskel chapter, which I loved. The rest of the book was very good. We got to the love life of Roger Ebert, including learning about Chas, his wife. He finally dealt with his alcoholism, and then with his cancer. Those last three hours were very engaging. So, for me, good first third, boring middle third, and very engaging final third. I expect that if you are a real student of the movies (and even better, of Europe, too), you will like the whole book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Nasu, Japan 04-02-12
    Scott Nasu, Japan 04-02-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Fast Forward to Chapter 20"

    If you're a fan of Roger Ebert -- and I most certainly am one -- you may wish to start your reading of this book at chapter 20. All the previous essays (that's how this book is structured; not as a timeline narrative of his life, but a collection of essays on topics from his life) focus on his family life and youth, and offer nothing of much relevance to understanding Roger the man, or why he became such a great critic. I found it a chore to power through and get to the far meatier second half. Of course, if information about his relatives' cooking skills, or that people he lived with in South Africa had a cute dog and other such personal minutiae are your thing, then by all means dive in.

    The task is made easier by Edward Herrmann, the narrator, who is simply superb; probably some of the best work I've enjoyed on Audible outside of Simon Vance's accomplishments.

    Even in the second half of the book, I was left wanting for more. We learn that Roger never desired to be a movie critic, that the job was just handed to him. But he offers no insight into how he thought and worked to turn himself into one of America's finest despite having no initial lust for the task. His discussion of Gene Siskel, too, is unfortunately shallow despite that partner being perhaps the one human being we most closely associate with Roger.

    We do get entertaining chapters about his associations with several different Hollywood stars, e.g., John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and more, but this is basically classy gossip, and reveals nothing about Roger Ebert, except that he's met some famous people.

    Perhaps the most revealing and touching sections were the two poignant chapters about his wife, Chaz, who was a complete enigma to me prior to reading this.

    So Roger, please go back and tell us what it was like to be a movie critic!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
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