I never met Roger Ebert, but he’s always been a part of my life. From PBS movie reviews in the 1970s to his writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert talked about movies in language that a normal person could understand. While he was brilliant, he never talked down to his readers. Instead, he was one of us, the person sitting next to us, a fan of movies.
Roger Ebert died today after a long bout with cancer. I’m assuming his death was unexpected because his friend the columnist Neil Steinberg wrote a great piece entitled: “Roger Ebert is not Going Away” in today’s paper. Ebert announced yesterday that his cancer had returned and that he would be reviewing fewer films. He described his decision as a “leave of presence.” Responding to Ebert’s words, “I am not going away,” Steinberg wrote: “This is certainly true. He couldn’t, even if he never wrote another word. He is lodged in the culture he swayed, in the minds of readers across the world, and in the hearts of his friends at the Sun-Times.” I’d add the hearts of his viewers and readers of several decades.
A person like Roger Ebert does leave us at death – his presence remains as long as we live.