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Life Itself: A Memoir (Anglais) Broché – 4 septembre 2012

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Revue de presse

"As Ebert notes in his new autobiography, "Life Itself," his silence has made his inner voice more vivid, and-as he himself says in his introduction-the book is proof of it. In particular, he summons his youth (he was born in 1942) and those who were close to him then-family, friends, neighbors, teachers-with a wealth of detail that is at once a tribute to the vigorous fullness with which he has lived and to his power of perception, recollection, and description. ...The treasure of the book is Ebert's portraiture-whether of family, friends, colleagues, or celebrities. He speaks lovingly of actors ("I am beneath everything else a fan. I was fixed in this mode as a young boy and am awed by people who take the risks of performance"); in particular, his sketches of Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and John Wayne pulsate with life (they're juicily quotable, but I won't bother quoting; just do read them), and he conjures a remarkable character, Billy "Silver Dollar" Baxter, a former wheeler-dealer at the Cannes Film Festival who, Ebert writes, now "lives not far from Broadway, which is to Billy as the stream is to the trout...." The dialogue Ebert reproduces is a comic masterwork; I feel as if I'm seeing a version of the American tycoon from Jacques Tati's "Playtime," only smarter, raunchier, and more inventive: Irving! Take care of Francis Ford Chrysler over there! And set 'em up for Prince Albert in a can! Whatever he's having. Doo-blays!"Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"Ebert is exceptionally good company. Like Christopher Hitchens and Kirk Douglas, he works prodigiously and narrates his Job-like woes with a surprisingly chipper voice....and a captivating, moveable feast it is."―Maureen Dowd, New York Times Book Review

"Candid, funny and kaleidoscopic...This is the best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written...The book sparkles with his new, improvisatory, written version of dinner-party conversation...Its globe-trotting, indefatigable author comes across as the life of a lifelong party."―Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Ebert is best known, of course, as the nation's most prominent film critic; but in recent years he's turned to exploring more personal concerns on his widely read blog, leading to this poignant memoir. Five years ago, surgeries following thyroid cancer left him unable to speak, eat, or drink, but as he recounts, he "began to replace what I lost with what I remembered." This enhanced recall allows him to relate with exhaustive detail his halcyon if unremarkable childhood in a small town in the Midwest and his life changing college days. When the narrative turns to journalism and, inevitably, movies, as Ebert falls into his reviewing gig at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, the focus becomes sharper, and even the tangential chapters-devoted to topics ranging from his encounters with film legends to his stormy relationship with TV partner Gene Siskel-are cogently engaging. But it's the most personal segments, dealing with his struggle with alcoholism, his supportive wife, Chaz, and his recent illness, that give the book its considerable emotional heft. Ebert illuminates and assesses his life with the same insight and clarity that marks his acclaimed movie reviews."―Booklist (starred review)

"It's hardly surprising that Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, begins this candid examination of an extraordinary life with an allusion to Ingmar Bergman's Persona, about an actress who loses her voice in mid-performance. Though three thyroid cancer surgeries resulting in the removal of his lower jaw have left Ebert unable to speak, eat, or drink, these are not famous last words. Forgoing a traditional linear format, each chapter--particularly "My Old Man" and "Big John Wayne"--could function as a stand-alone essay. Born in Urbana, Ill., in 1942, Ebert spent a carefree childhood, often with his nose in a book. Drawn to newspapers beginning in high school, he became the sports reporter for his school paper before rising to the rank of co-editor. The position of film critic fell into his lap at the Sun-Times--a paper he joined after leaving a graduate English program--and Ebert hasn't looked back. And while films have governed his life for close to 50 years, he wisely doesn't choose the greatest hits version of his reviewing career, focusing instead on the life he's lived in between screenings: his battle with alcoholism; tight-knit friendships forged in the newsroom (and bar); and his marriage to Chaz, whom he calls "the great fact of my life." Hollywood gets its due, but it's an ensemble player, sharing the screen with reminiscences both witty and passionate from one of our most important cultural voices."―Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"Thoughtful, entertaining, and emotional...Ebert comes across as smart, bighearted, and eccentric...and writes with unflinching candor about difficult subjects."―Entertainment Weekly (A-)

"Tales from childhood, interviews with film stars and directors, funny and touching stories about colleagues, and evocative essays about trips unspool before the reader in a series of loosely organized, often beautifully written essays crafted by a witty, clear-eyed yet romantic raconteur....Ebert's work as a film critic sent him traveling, and his wonderfully personal essays on places around the world where he seeks solitude are highlights of the book, rich in reflections, imagery and sensory detail."―Washington Post

"A gentle look back, Life Itself: A Memoir is as moving as it is amusing, fresh evidence that Roger Ebert is a writer who happens to love movies, not a movie lover who happens to write."―Associated Press

"Ebert's new memoir, "Life Itself," is an episodic, impressionistic and skillfully written exploration of his life, from his 1950s childhood in Urbana, Ill., to his recent battles against thyroid cancer, which have left him unable to speak, or to eat or drink through his mouth. What shines throughout the book is Ebert's humility, his down-to-earth and powerful sense of decency."―Minneapolis Star Tribune

"His story is inspirational, and his memoirs, Life Itself, are a pleasure to read....Spellbinding."―The Boston Review

Présentation de l'éditeur


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. 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.

"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."

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Amazon.com: 204 commentaires
114 internautes sur 122 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
At The Movies 13 septembre 2011
Par Robert Taylor Brewer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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. "He and I were good friends. He once said to me: `the thing that makes you and I different from those other guys is, we're funny.'"

Over a lifetime of watching movies, Ebert has reached some conclusions about them. "Movies aren't about what happens to the characters. They're about the example [the characters] set. Casablanca is about people who do the right thing. The Third Man is about people who do the right thing and can't speak to each other as a result. You may need awhile to think about this, but the deep secret of The Silence Of The Lambs is that Hannibal Lecter is a Good Person."

He has mixed feelings about the contemporary movie scene as this passage on page 160 reveals: "When you go to the movies every day, sometimes it seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven, more cowardly, more determined to pander to our lowest tastes instead of educating them." He adores black and white films, and offers movie goers this test: "take a picture of your grandparents, probably taken in black and white, and put it next to a picture of your parents probably taken in color. The picture of your grandparents will probably seem timeless, the one of your parents will probably seem goofy."

He ends the book as a man larger than the motion picture industry he critiqued, emerging as someone very much at home with his contribution to film and even more so, to his family. Easily the best book I've read this year.

Cut. Print it.
82 internautes sur 88 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
WHY WE TELL STORIES 23 novembre 2011
Par Nancy J - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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.
59 internautes sur 62 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Couldn't Put This Book Down 15 septembre 2011
Par G.I Gurdjieff - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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.
Ebert speaks in detail of the small and big things that have influenced his life and career, meaningful and/or memorable
encounters with the famous, and he remembers with clarity small sensory things that most us take for granted. He is incredibly positive and optimistic given all he has gone through over the past few years. I don't like using the word 'inspirational', but his take on life certainly has made a positive impression on me.
One really mundane thing discussed is his love of Steak and Shake. While the burger emporium has expanded over the country in the past few years, this was a phenomena that was once only available in central Illinois. Ebert loves the place. All the S&S talk made me really hungry.
I've had my share of Ebert spottings through the years as we both live in the same area. He's the local celebrity and he is very recognizable. I've gone to lectures he's given on film. I've read his other books. However, this is the book that will stand out among the others because it is comprehensive, very personal, and enormously interesting because of its wide range of topics and candor. If you have a preconceived notion of who Roger Ebert is, reading this book may very well change your mind.
31 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The AUDIO version of the new Ebert book- Great choice of Reader- as well as the Print Edition 17 septembre 2011
Par Steve Ramm - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD
I was able to read parts of the print version of this wonderful new book by Roger Ebert but then the AUDIO version arrived and I switched to that. (I'm a big audio fan.) If you know of Ebert's recent health problems - which are covered in the book near the end, but are mentioned periodically throughout - you know that he has lost the ability to speak (as well as eat). So, obviously, he was not going to be reading his own words for the audio version. Hachette Audio made a great choice in choosing actor Edward Hermann. I've been a big fan of Hermann's readings over the last 25 years. (Yes, some of my favorite "books on tape" (remember tape?) were his readings. And he's perfect for Ebert's calm descriptions of growing up in Urbana, Illinois, going to college, getting his job with the Chicago Sun-Times and a lifelong career in film criticism and reviewing. His wife Chaz is never far away from his thoughts either.

As for the contents of the book, I'll defer to previous reviewer Robert Taylor Brewer, who pretty much covers the books contents - without giving away the details of some great stories. My favorite was the chapter on Russ Meyer - for whom Ebert wrote the script for the sexploitation film "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls". I always wanted to know how he and Meyer met and that chapter filled me in. To have someone move from Meyer to Bergman to John Wayne tells you the breadth of Ebert's circle.

So, if you don't have the time to sit and read this 448-page volume, you will certainly enjoy the 14 hour audio book. The print edition gives you the extra benefit of having an Index - so you can go back to favorite places or jump ahead to topics or personalities that most interest you. Either way this book gets five stars from me.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
There are certain books it's a privilege to review, and LIFE ITSELF is one of that small number 30 septembre 2011
Par Bookreporter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Roger Ebert has spent a lifetime as a critic, immersed in the world of cinema as he thoughtfully appraises the work of actors, directors and screenwriters. Now, approaching the end of his seventh decade, he has focused his critical lens on his own life in this insightful, compassionate, witty and moving self-portrait.

LIFE ITSELF grew out of the blog Ebert began writing in 2008, and portions, such as the glimpse of his reading life, "Books Do Furnish a Room," will look familiar to its regular readers. Though it presents a comprehensive and, in some instances, roughly chronological account of his life, including the pleasures his work and attendant fame have brought him and the harrowing ordeal of his recent illnesses, each of the chapters works as a freestanding piece. Ebert's memory for detail is prodigious and his ability to evoke people and places compelling.

Born in 1942, Ebert "grew up in security and comfort" in Urbana, Illinois, his father an electrician for the University of Illinois and his mother employed by a finance company. Realizing only years later that "my parents never really had much money," he recounts with obvious pleasure what amounted to something close to an idyllic post-war Middle American boyhood. There are no revelations of sexual abuse or other dark subjects, but he acknowledges his parents' problems with alcohol, an affliction he overcame in 1979 with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. From the day he landed his first newspaper job at age 16, it seemed his career as a journalist was preordained, not least in the way he effortlessly slipped into the job of film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967.

Though the book eventually returns to more personal subjects (including his passion for travel, his seriocomic romantic life and his lust for a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk), about midway through Ebert shifts his attention to the world of film. There's an affectionate chapter on his friendship with softcore porn king Russ Meyer, with whom he co-wrote the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Movie buffs will appreciate his portraits of actors like Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne, although younger readers may wish for some more contemporary portraits.

Ebert himself is quick to mourn how his loss of speech has curtailed his "freedom to interview" and the lengthening list of "new stars and directors coming up now whom I will never get to know that way." To his appraisals of directors Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and his directorial and personal idol, Werner Herzog, he brings the well-honed eye of the critic and the enthusiasm of a fan.

With the exception of a brief jab at critic John Simon, for whom he feels "repugnance," Ebert's memoir is free of rancor, remarkably so for a public figure who, like any other, has had to endure his share of criticism. If anything, the book is suffused with a sense of gratitude and tinged with regret that perhaps he wasn't able to repay fully the generosity of his mentors, Chicago legends Studs Terkel ("the greatest man I knew well") and Mike Royko among them.

In that spirit, Ebert devotes a chapter that's both tender and candid to his relationship with the late Gene Siskel, one that brought enduring celebrity to both and whose end when Siskel died of brain cancer in 1999 he still mourns. The intense rivalry that flashed in their often heated debates about movies was real, he confirms, but in the end he wistfully acknowledges that "no one else could possibly understand how meaningless was the hate, how deep was the love." And on the subject of love, the portrait of his wife Chaz is one any spouse would cherish.

Despite the mushrooming medical calamity that has dominated his life beginning in 2006 (an operation for thyroid cancer followed by three failed reconstructive surgeries left him with a severe facial deformity, unable to speak or eat), Ebert understands he's led a life many would envy. But he's never mistaken the glamorous surface of the world he inhabits for life's essence, and he's eager to offer his views on religion (he's a secular humanist), the afterlife (there is none) and politics ("'Kindness covers all of my political beliefs."). What makes the experience of spending a few days in his company even more pleasurable is an accessible, almost conversational prose style that has helped make him such a popular critic for nearly 45 years.

There are certain books it's a privilege to review, and LIFE ITSELF is one of that small number. Facing terrible pain, disfigurement and loss, Roger Ebert long ago could have retreated into a private, silent world. Instead, he's still sending out small sparks of light from the inside of a darkened movie theater and now in this honest, deeply felt reminiscence. That's a tribute to him, and a gift to all of us.

--- Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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