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Life Itself: A Memoir Audible – Unabridged

4.3 out of 5 stars 221 customer reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This memoir opens as though someone had created a set, arranged the lights, positioned actors, and yelled "Action!" Ebert is three years old, sensing the motions of parents, aunts, uncles and extended family, reacting to various stimuli, seemingly aware, even at this age, the cameras are rolling.

The book has a lot in common with the Gunther Grass novel The Tin Drum, as Ebert recalls his early years, then in vivid detail, matinee afternoons with his parents watching the Marx Brothers hit, A Day At The Races, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and one of the first 3D films, Bwana Devil. Early screen heroes were Whip Wilson and Lash LaRue, characters who carried guns but didn't need them because they also carried whips and could slash a pistol from your grip before you could aim it. He remembers the ubiquitous aroma of popcorn, the high movie house ceilings, and girls with rolls of Necco wafers.

Then came college, 1963, the year Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski led the University of Illinois to the Rose Bowl. "I became friendly with a voluptuous woman under a grey woolen blanket. In the middle of the night, rocking through the midlands, we made free with each other." He had fun, but also vigorous preparation, working for the Daily Illini newspaper with its Associated Press affiliation, spending hours setting hot lead Linotype, and reading the voluminous novels of Thomas Wolfe.

One of Ebert's transcendent skills has always been the interview, and the book is full of them - John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Woody Allen and the enigmatic Igmar Bergman are represented, but the best one takes place with Robert Mitchum. You can hear Mitchum speaking the interview lines, and for a brief time, you are in one of his movies. "I knew him," Mitchum says of Humphrey Bogart.
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Format: Hardcover
We tell stories for different reasons. If you're about to read Ebert's LIFE ITSELF, it might be helpful to consider why he writes these memoirs as he does.

He's not really telling his stories to inform us or to broaden our knowledge about large and small eating places that he has loved around the world, or the great pals he has accumulated in a very full life. He's not primarily interested in entertaining us or holding our attention, though I think he expects that will happen--and it probably will.

I believe Ebert is telling these stories the way people do in the later years of our lives--as a precious kind of taking stock for ourselves, a summing up (the title of Somerset Maugham's memoirs), a saying of the rosary of our days. Every bead is cherished. The litany of names of pals and what they drank and where they sat and who they out-smarted and how much they loved us and we them--this review and re-telling is as much a part of the so-called third stage of life as learning to talk is of the first stage.

If you know this in advance, then you can sit back and let Roger tell you all the details, and smile and nod in appreciation of the man telling the stories. I skipped a number of chapters--each too long for too little of what I was interested in. Other chapters I read slowly, gleaning every grain I could.

I don't think I could have NOT read this book. Roger Ebert's is the major voice on a subject I've been passionate about for more than seventy years. I advise potential readers of the book to sit back, enjoy, be patient, skip when you feel like it, and realize how lucky we are to have the book and the man.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book for a lot of reasons, but bought it for one reason. I LOVE MOVIES! I've spent decades going to the movies and loving even some really bad ones. I was certain Roger Ebert would have plenty to say regarding film, its directors, its writers and its stars.
In this book, Ebert delivers. It is loaded with anecdotes about the people he's come in contact with as a film critic, but it also has a huge amount of heart and is surprisingly revealing in regard to the private person who is also known as Roger Ebert. If Ebert is unsparing in his film criticisms, he is also unsparing when he covers his own life. From growing up in Urbana, IL and attending the home town University of Illinois, he covers his short career covering sports, a fortuitous shot at the Chicago Sun-Times film critic job which established his reputation as a sharp reviewer, a brush with alcoholism, a sometimes adversarial relationship with fellow critic Gene Siskel, a later in life marriage with his soulmate Chaz, and a decimating encounter with cancer which even after several surgeries has robbed him of his ability to speak and eat. For someone who was not only a fluid writer/speaker this was one heck of a challenge.
While getting personal, I found he really seemed to leave nothing out. Be it his complex relationships with women (he had three very serious ones with divorced ladies who coincidentally had children) or his even more complex relationship with his widowed mother Annabel, he apparently left nothing out. From my pov, anyone who writes about themselves are wise to be as honest as possible.
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