On Tuesday, a sensitive Esquire profile of ailing film critic Roger Ebert lit up the Twittersphere. The piece documents Ebert's physical deterioration as he continues to battle cancer. Three years ago, Ebert's jaw was removed and he lost the ability to speak. That didn't, however, deter him from becoming a prolific Twitter user. On Tuesday, the micro-blogging service returned the favor.
In an outpouring of tweets, users across the country praised Ebert and the man who profiled him, Esquire's Chris Jones. Here's a small sampling:
- vwyellowpress: A must-read on movie critic Roger Ebert: Looking for the meaning of life? I think it’s in a story I just read....
- annehelen: If you still haven't read the Esquire piece on Ebert, do. Now. A narrative fit for one of his beloved films.
- AmyKNelson: if you read anything today, plese go to Chris Jones' fabulous profile of Roger Ebert, who is dying:
- jodyms: The piece on Ebert is outstanding. A tough read; one where each paragraph has its own revelations. Amazing.
In addition to Twitter, Ebert keeps an online journal where he comments on much more than movies. Not being able to speak, the dying film critic has found his blog to be a tremendous source of strength. As Jones notes, "His new life is lived through Times New Roman and chicken scratch." This is how he described the online community Ebert has created:
The original entries are short updates about his life and health and a few of his heart's wishes. Postcards and pebbles. They're followed by a smattering of Welcomes to Cyberspace. But slowly the journal picks up steam, as Ebert's strength and confidence and audience grow. You are the readers I have dreamed of, he writes. He is emboldened. He begins to write about more than movies; in fact, it sometimes seems as though he'd rather write about anything other than movies. The existence of an afterlife, the beauty of a full bookshelf, his liberalism and atheism and alcoholism, the health-care debate, Darwin, memories of departed friends and fights won and lost — more than five hundred thousand words of inner monologue have poured out of him, five hundred thousand words that probably wouldn't exist had he kept his other voice. Now some of his entries have thousands of comments, each of which he vets personally and to which he will often respond. It has become his life's work, building and maintaining this massive monument to written debate — argument is encouraged, so long as it's civil — and he spends several hours each night reclined in his chair, tending to his online oasis by lamplight. Out there, his voice is still his voice — not a reasonable facsimile of it, but his.