The profile of Roger Ebert by Chris Jones that appears in the most recent issue of Esquire has been linked and tweeted and Facebooked and celebrated all over the internet in the last few days, making this one of the more redundant articles I’ve ever published. But I admire Ebert so immensely, and have read his work for so long, that I can’t help but add my voice to the thousands of others urging you, if you haven’t already, to go read “Roger Ebert: The Essential Man” at Esquire.com.
It’s a great piece of writing, about one of the greatest living writers. Here’s a brief sample:
[Ebert] believes he’s had three more surgeries since the removal of his lower jaw [in 2006]; Chaz [his wife] remembers four. Each time, however many times, surgeons carved bone and tissue and skin from his back, arm, and legs and transplanted them in an attempt to reconstruct his jaw and throat. Each time, he had one or two weeks of hope and relief when he could eat a little and drink a little and talk a little. Once, the surgery looked nearly perfect. (“Like a movie star,” Chaz remembers.) But each time, the reconstructive work fell apart and had to be stripped out, the hole opened up again. It was as though the cancer were continuing to eat away at him, even those parts of him that had been spared. His right shoulder is visibly smaller than his left shoulder; his legs have been weakened and riddled with scars. After each attempt at reconstruction, he went to rehabilitation and physical therapy to fix the increasing damage done. (During one of those rehabilitation sessions, he fell and broke his hip.) He still can’t sit upright for long or climb stairs. He’s still figuring out how to use his legs.
At the start of their walk around the pond, Ebert worries about falling on a small gravel incline. Chaz lets go of his hand. “You can do it,” she says, and she claps when Ebert makes it to the top on his own. Later, she climbs on top of a big circular stone. “I’m going to give my prayer to the universe,” she says, and then she gives a sun salutation north, south, east, and west. Ebert raises his arms into the sky behind her.
Read Ebert’s film writing, including new reviews and essays on the great movies, at RogerEbert.com. And read Roger Ebert’s Journal, the best blog there is, right here.