Once in a very long while I read something that’s so crazy epiphanic that it pushes just about everything else out of my head. This week it was that Esquire profile on Roger Ebert. I seriously had no idea that the guy had cancer, or that he had no lower jaw as a result for, like, three years. I’ve been reading the guy for the past couple of years because short form writing is some of the best stuff to read. A.A. Gill is a hilarious writer, a food critic who only rarely and tangentially writes about food. Ebert is a movie critic who has a lot to say about movies and a select few other topics.
There had been two things that puzzled me about him: that he was, despite being a 60-something print writer, one of the most prolific twitter users I’ve ever seen (over 3,000 tweets since he joined, a feed that bombards you every morning with talk about movies, authors, culture, and whatever else is interesting or not. In addition, he has written often and at length about rice cookers and noodles.
None of this made any sense to me. Why is the first man to win a pulitzer for criticism writing the best he has ever written, and why is some of the best stuff he’s ever written about stuff that has nothing to do with criticism? Why does he write all the time?
And it all hit me in a flood after this profile. The man does nothing but write. It’s his only avenue to the outside world. He’s taken what seems to be the absolute worst curse for a great communicator and it has only made him stronger. And happy. And the rice and noodles? Soft food, no need for chewing maybe. It’s incredible. It’s like solving a crime and discovering that what seemed like a mad sort of eclectic genius is just a pure practical adaptation to his circumstances.
Roger Ebert got back on the horse and proceeded to jump it over the moon.
By comparison, the first boss of Phalanx is a giant flailing robot squid thing that pretty much becomes a total wuss the second you blow off its lower jaw.