|Orig Ebert photo adapted|
Anne Ryan [USA Today]
The reason why he had to blog was that 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."*
His best-known book is Life Itself. Earlier this month, the Brainpicker organisation published a series of excerpts, together with commentary, from the book. From this, I extracted the juiciest bits and even bold-faced several lines. I thought you might enjoy them, especially if you are a writer of any sort, or would like to be.
"RIP, Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality"
One of the rewards of growing old is that you can truthfully say you lived in the past. … In these years after my illness, when I can no longer speak and am set aside from the daily flow, I live more in my memory and discover that a great many things are safely stored away. It all seems still to be in there somewhere. … You find a moment from your past, undisturbed ever since, still vivid, surprising you.
I remember everything. All my life I’ve been visited by unexpected flashes of memory unrelated to anything taking place at the moment. These retrieved moments I consider and replace on the shelf. When I began writing this book, memories came flooding to the surface, not because of any conscious effort but simply in the stream of writing. I started in a direction and the memories were waiting there, sometimes of things I hadn’t consciously thought about since.
...the most useful advice I have ever received as a writer: ‘One, don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damn thing. Two, once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going?’ These rules saved me half a career’s worth of time and gained me a reputation as the fastest writer in town. I’m not faster. I spend less time not writing.
My blog became my voice, my outlet, my ‘social media’ in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of. Into it I poured my regrets, desires, and memories. Some days I became possessed. The comments were a form of feedback I’d never had before, and I gained a better and deeper understanding of my readers. I made ‘online friends,’ a concept I’d scoffed at. Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to. I didn’t intend for it to drift into autobiography, but in blogging there is a tidal drift that pushes you that way. … the Internet encourages first-person writing, and I’ve always written that way.
The blog let loose the flood of memories. Told sometimes that I should write my memoirs, I failed to see how I possibly could. I had memories, I had lived a good life in an interesting time, but I was at a loss to see how I could organize the accumulation of a lifetime. It was the blog that taught me how. It pushed me into first-person confession, it insisted on the personal, it seemed to organize itself in manageable fragments. Some of these words, since rewritten and expanded, first appeared in blog forms. Most are here for the first time. They come pouring forth in a flood of relief.
If you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear. Movies are hardly ever about what they seem to be about. Look at a movie that a lot of people love, and you will find something profound, no matter how silly the film may be.
RIP, Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality
These are lonely. I hope I'm not breaking any rules by copying and pasting them so I can read them again and again - there's so much to think about.ReplyDelete
I'll take 'lonely' as 'lovely' [Curse you, Autocorrect?'] though they are a little lonely too, out of context.Delete
I don't think the copyright fiends are going to be knocking at your door, somehow!
Roger Ebert was an engaging writer and colorful personality but ideologically a partisan hack.ReplyDelete
That's interesting. I know nothing about his politics but in any case I would divorce his comments on writing from that. The other two who've given the best advice on these matters I disagreed with strongly in respects outside of advice on writing style were C S Lewis and Christopher Hitchens. If your ideology matches mine then this makes the trifecta!Delete
Ah, Denis, just found this via zmkc. I read a Canadian blogger on Ebert's death and commented that of course it wasn't as big news over here. She was surprised until I pointed out that we have our own critics. However, like you I did know of Ebert - and before that, Siskel and Ebert - mostly because I've lived in the USA. I haven't though read this work. I love the excerpts you've provided - but I do wish that I too remembered everything! What a gift.ReplyDelete
PS Love your comment below re iPads and posting comments. It drives me to distraction when I use my iPad on some blogger blogs. I try now to always save a long comment as you say, but with some blogs I just have to remember to come back to my laptop to comment. Unfortunately I sometimes forget.
We do remember everything. What we lose is the capacity to recall something at the time we want to. I am shocked at how some things come to mind if they get jolted by the right trigger, to mix metaphors. Sadly this is often long after the 'Use-By' date of what I needed to recall.Delete
I am having terrible problems with short term memory, yet if I am reminded of some fraction of what I was trying to recall, it often comes back.
We joke that every old movie I now see is new, which can be good –and yet, as the story unfolds I do recall it, like a road we've travelled once or twice before.
The iPad thing remains a mystery to me. All I know is that I need to be logged into my gmail account in another window to make it behave, even on a computer. Definitely save it elsewhere first! A gmail draft is a great idea. You can then recover it on your computer later, just by copying from the unsent draft.
All the way through, I felt that it was you writing that blog, Denis. What really rang a bell with me was the comment 'I’m not faster. I spend less time not writing'. That is so true about writing, and so true about much else in life. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. How often do we plan, dream, make lists, procrastinate ... yet nothing happens until we take that step. And I love the wording "I spend less time not writing' - I could spend a lot of time playing with that thought.ReplyDelete
In a way, it does feel like me, only professionally written and not bumbling amateur. It's just that it gave insights into the experience of blogging that he and I seem to have shared.Delete
That certainly is a quotable quote about less time not writing. I also thought the movie quote rang very true. Why do people love the Holy Grail's Black Knight so much?
That's a rhetorical question.
Thank you for these quotes, Denis.ReplyDelete
Did you ever happen to notice the quote I have used in my Twitter profile bio? It's been there since I read about Ebert's death a few months ago. So...this blog posting of yours is of particular interest to me. xx
Yes, I did notice the quote, Ros. The problem with Ebert is, he's way too quotable!Delete
Denis, I just found your blog, randomly through stumble.upon website. I am really fascinated! Due to various life events, I was not able to see my family for several years now. We have been separated by the ocean. I am planning on making a trip next year. I go through occasional ups and downs, wondering why could not things be easier, like why can't I live closer to my parents, have weekly dinners with them. Or why do I and my boyfriend are not on the same page about future, family, despite the fact that I love him dearly, why don't have I have enough power and strength to do what I like, and despite the fact that I have a good job, but not something that I am passionate about, as I would like to teach one day.....and many others.....But your blog gives me hope and appreciation to what I have. I have a wonderful family, though far. I hope one day, I will have someone that is similar to your wife and share my life with that person...maybe it is my boyfriend, just will take time and patience. You have such a wonderful family, and people like you that what makes me believe and find strength to fight for my dreams and to appreciate everything that I have. Thank you for you blog! Thank you for your genuine thoughts! You might not realize it, but this is so powerful! I don't even know you, and problems that I listed might be so minute in a long run, but just wanted to let you know that your blog is changing/saving lives out there.ReplyDelete