My favorite part of Roger Ebert's new memoir "Life Itself," from the chapter on junkets:
In Dallas for the premiere of 9 to 5, I had an uncanny experience, and on the plane home to Chicago I confessed it to Siskel: I had been granted a private half hour with Dolly Parton, and as we spoke, I was filled with a strange ethereal grace. This was not spiritual, nor was it sexual. It was healing or comforting. Gene listened, and said, "Roger, I felt the exact same thing during my interview with her." We looked at each other. What did this mean? Neither one of us ever felt that feeling again. From time to time we would refer to it in wonder.
You guys, do you think if a blind person interviewed Dolly, they would see again? I mean, how amazing is that quote?!
Also amazing is Mr. Ebert himself, who in recent years has really reestablished himself as a genius thinker and writer, despite the fact that he lost the ability to speak after a lower jaw surgery in 2006. (See this amazing Esquire piece for the details.) He came out about his battles with alcoholism and decades of sobriety in 2009. He justifies breaking his AA anonymity as follows:
You may be wondering, in fact, why I'm violating the AA policy of anonymity and outing myself. AA is anonyous not because of shame but because of prudence; people who go public with their newly found sobriety have an alarming tendency to relapse ... Since surgery in July of 2006 I haven't been able to drink at all, or eat or speak. Unless I go insane and start pouring booze in my G-tube, I believe I'm reasonably safe.
While I found the first half of the book less interesting than the later chapters, I did enjoy finding out that Ebert's a boob man (He wrote the screenplay for Russ Meyers' "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") who once had a crush on Oprah. And reading about how he's managed to find peace with a current condition that sounds totally unbearable to anyone not living it is downright inspiring. When asked if he misses eating and drinking, he responds:
What's sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, the gossip, laughter, arguments, and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment's notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why writing has become so important to me. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.
Thanks for the meal, Mr. Ebert.