This was a rough week for the literate. Roger Ebert died on Thursday. He was so much more than simply a film critic. Here is one tiny example, from his review of “Synecdoche, New York”
Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.
In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again.
First off, I've yet to find the conflict of life expressed anywhere, let alone in two paragraphs, (!!!) so succinctly, so elegantly. He managed to put into words what Charlie Kaufman attemped to say with his film! I would argue that Ebert's review is better than the film! To take such a difficult concept and express it so perfectly... Genius. If you search the web about Ebert you'll find over and over, story after story, a humanist of the highest order; how he touched so many people's lives. He also exemplified Chicagoan, tough, honest, hard working, brash, loud...a joie de vivre! We're not likely to see one like him again any time soon. ...If ever... This one hurt.
I sat down last night, put my DVD copy of Citizen Kane in the player, and watched it with Ebert's commentary for the first time. It's a bit repetitive, but even though I've seen the film maybe a dozen times, I still saw things with his help that I've never seen before. We agree, Ebert and I, it is the greatest film ever made, and what better way to remember him?!
But it didn't stop there. Iain Banks announced he has terminal cancer and has perhaps only months to live. His Culture series exemplify space opera at its literate best. And his first novel, The Wasp Factory, is to my mind Jim Carroll and J.D. Salinger with a bit of Stephen King...
And it didn't didn't stop there. Paul Williams passed away. Philip K. Dick would not be as widely read today if not for Williams. Rock criticism wouldn't be what it is. I treasure both the work he did editing Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon. Sadly, few people will probably ever know about Paul Williams or his work... That's a shame, if not a crime...
“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
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