Roger Ebert Responds to His Profile in Esquire

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Hopefully you’ve read Esquire’s very moving and deeply detailed piece on Roger Ebert, which appeared online Tuesday morning. The article opened with a large photo of Ebert as he is today: his face slack after losing his lower jaw, but eyes vibrant and perceptive. Written by Chris Jones, the article peers into Ebert’s life as it is after his battle with cancer left him without the ability to eat or speak. But despite one line that has been taken too seriously by some (“Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it.”) the focus of the article is on the renewed vigor with which Roger Ebert has approached his work in the last few years. It’s an inspiring story; Ebert’s response to the aftereffects of his illness seems to come from a deep love of life and creative energy.

Now Ebert has responded to the article, in a calm and rational blog post that commends Jones for his work, and adds detail to the portrait of the critic’s life.
Ebert’s latest blog is both a thoughtful response to the Esquire profile, and a behind the scenes look at the interview. More than anything else, however, Ebert wants us to know that he is not dying. Or, he isn’t dying any faster than the rest of us.

Well, we’re all dying in increments. I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, but I don’t want them thinking I’m dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that’s just good writing.

As I discussed the Esquire piece with friends who aren’t immersed in movie news on a daily basis, one thing kept coming up: few of them knew the extent to which cancer had marked Ebert physically. They knew his output was as regular as ever, if not more so — some of them follow Ebert on Twitter — and had never considered the fact that he might be physically impaired. Ebert has always lived through his words, and continues to do so with more energy than ever.

As he said of his recent output in the Esquire interview, “It is saving me,” before recounting a journal entry he wrote not too long ago: “When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.”

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