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Will Leitch on Ebert
Will Leitch, writer extraordinaire, film reviewer, and all-around Ebert fan, was kind enough to share these thoughts with us today on Roger’s passing.
All the personal knowledge I have of Roger came from when I was a younger, brasher man, incapable of accepting the kindness he never failed to show me. (After I had been cruel and unfair to him, he forgave me, even though he didn’t have to and probably shouldn’t have.) So I know him much less than everyone else in these pages. But I have read every word he has ever written — and pretty sure I’ve found almost everything, even the old Esquire and Playboy stories that aren’t online — so of course I feel like I understand him in the way he would have wanted to have been understood. Roger wrote the way we all want to think, the way we all wish we WERE: Open-hearted, open-minded and with open arms. He was funny, he was mean, he was wistful, he was moving, he was everything … his writing felt like LIFE. Writing about Roger in death feels like a cheat, a confession of inferiority: The only person I want to read about Roger’s death is Roger.
What makes Leitch’s comments all the more emotional is his own dealings with Ebert that he outlined in great detail in a fantastic essay he wrote for Deadspin in 2010, detailing how he once lashed out at his idol, Roger’s reaction, and, well, it’s worth a read to get the whole story.
…if you wonder to yourself, “They’re making him into some sort of saint. Is he really that nice of a guy?” … just know that, yes, he really is that nice of a guy. But more than that, he’s a wonderful, soulful writer who is better, and more devoted, than just about anyone in the game. He’s been my personal hero for 25 years, but he belongs to the world now. I’m just honored to have gotten to know him as briefly as I did, whether or not I deserved it, whether or not I was mature enough to handle it. Ebert’s a national treasure. I couldn’t be more ecstatic that so many people finally realize it. He did it the right way all along: He did it by writing, and being, resolutely, himself.
(photo by John H White/Chicago Sun-Times)