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Roger Ebert posts preview of forthcoming memoir, credits social media to be his "voice" after illness

Austin_photo: News_Sam_Roger Ebert_book cover

Famed film critic and cultural icon Roger Ebert has posted an exclusive excerpt from his forthoming memoir, Life Itself, on his Sun Times blog.

The first page of the book begins with the line: "I was born inside the movie of my life." Ebert continues in characteristically floral prose, broadly outlining his childhood, his introduction to the world of criticism and his career alongside former professional partner, the late Gene Siskel (who was later replaced by Richard Roeper). 

While he's best known for his uniquely objective reviewing style, Ebert's personal struggles have recently put him in the spotlight; after a 2002 diagnosis of thyroid cancer, the critic underwent a disastrous series of corrective surgeries. 

He doesn't shy away from the subject, jumping right into the story of his sickness and subsequent recovery in the first few pages:

The next stage of my life also came about for reasons outside my control. I was diagnosed with cancers of the thyroid and jaw, I had difficult surgeries, I lost the ability to speak, eat, or drink, and two failed attempts to rebuild my jaw led to shoulder damage that makes it difficult to walk easily and painful to stand. It is that person who is writing this book.

Following his illness, Ebert went through a very public recovery period—and much of the information on his condition came from his own blog, where he regularly posts personal updates and musings alongside his criticism.

He's also very active on social media, respondinding to fan questions via Twitter and maintaining a frequently-updated Facebook. And interestingly, he cites his online presence as a sort of saving grace, an outlet that helped bolster his emotional strength and continue his professional work:

My blog became my voice, my outlet, my "social media" in a way I couldn't have dreamed of. Into it I poured my regrets, desires, and memories. Some days I became possessed. The comments were a form of feedback I'd never had before, and I gained a better and deeper understanding of my readers. I made "online friends," a concept I'd scoffed at. Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to. I didn't intend for it to drift into autobiography, but in blogging there is a tidal drift that pushes you that way. Getting such quick feedback may be one reason; the Internet encourages first- person writing, and I've always written that way. 

We're fascinated to hear about Ebert's favorite film memories, and to learn more about how the internet has helped shape and enrich his career; considered one of the most respected writers online, he's also one of the most experienced—he's had a presence with the Sun Times site since 1967, becoming a part of their site immediately upon launch.

Life Itself will be published on September 13, 2011, on Grand Central, and is currently available for pre-order.

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