“The Balcony is Closed”- Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

rebertPopular and Pulitzer-Prize winning film reviewer Roger Ebert died Thursday after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70. Film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, Ebert was well known for his trademark thumbs-up/thumbs-down PBS television show he co-hosted first with the late Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and then with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper. He won a Pulitzer in 1975 for distinguished criticism (“the first, and one of only three, given to a film reviewer since the category was created in 1970.”) And in 2005, he  became the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Despite cancer surgeries which resulted in losing his ability to speak,   eat, and drink he resumed his writing and television work. Author of more than 20 books, Ebert also noted in his 2011 memoir Life Itself  that he considered himself “beneath everything else a fan.” Tributes have been pouring in from filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese,  Ron Howard, and colleagues as well as Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel and President Obama. Director Steven Spielberg summed it up best: “Roger’s passing is virtually the end of an era and now the balcony is closed forever.” Read the complete article here which includes special memories, quotes, and some of his best-known reviews. And check the EPL catalog for books by him.


Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe 1930-2013

achebe_337-articleLargeChinua Achebe, one of Africa’s most acclaimed authors has died at the age of 82 after a brief illness. His first  novel Things Fall Apart published in 1958 sold millions of copies and was translated into 45 languages.  Achebe received numerous awards, including the Nigerian National Merit Award (Nigeria’s highest award for intellectual achievement) and more than 30 honorary doctorates, but among the tributes he may have valued most was Nelson Mandela’s: “There was a writer named Chinua Achebe in whose company the prison walls fell down.” Novelist Nadine Gordimer in a 1998 NYT book review called Mr. Achebe “a novelist who makes you laugh and then catch your breath in horror–a writer who has no illusions but is not disillusioned.” Check the EPL catalog for books by the author and see the full article in today’s New York Times.


Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

20120829-CLIBURN-slide-26I8-thumbWideAcclaimed American pianist Van Cliburn died this morning in Fort Worth, Texas at the age of 78. Mr Cliburn skyrocketed to fame after winning the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958 when he was only 23 years old. Given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, Van Cliburn’s award held in Moscow “was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war” turning him into a “cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions.” He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and started studying piano with his mother when he was three years old – by the age of four he was playing in student recitals. In great demand during the 1950s, Van Cliburn stopped performing in concerts in 1978. His last public performance was to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Van Cliburn Foundation.  Check the EPL catalog for recordings and books. You can read the full obituary in today’s New York Times.


“Dear Abby” Pauline Phillips, 1918-2013

abby-articleLargeAdvice columnist Pauline Phillips died in Minneapolis Wednesday at age 94. Her “Dear Abby” column began in 1956 and appeared in hundreds of newspapers around the world, covering a wide variety of personal topics. The column, still in print and with its own website, was taken over by Mrs. Phillips’s daughter Jeanne Phillips in 2000.  Known for her sharp, sometimes risque replies as well as for her “much-publicized  professional rivalry with her identical twin sister advice columnist Ann Landers”, Pauline’s column had a huge influence on American popular culture. Today’s NYT article discusses her early years, her competitiveness with her sister, and includes some of her more well-known advice:

Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We’re newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? — Ed

Dear Ed: It’s O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying bacon.


Ravi Shankar, 1920-2012

shankar-image2-articleLargeKnown as the unofficial ambassador for Indian classical music, renowned  composer and sitarist Ravi Shankar died Tuesday at the age of 92. He was born in Varanasi, India to a family of musicians and dancers. Trained in both Eastern and Western music, he and his ensemble built a large following for Indian music. He enjoyed mixing the music of different cultures, collaborating with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who named his son Ravi after him. In 1965 George Harrison of the Beatles began to study the sitar with him, which helped build a following for the sitar. Mr. Shankar also composed many scores for film music (including the film “Gandhi”), ballets, electronic works and concertos. Although popular here and abroad, his style brought criticism among Indian traditionalists: “In India I have been called a destroyer,” he said in 1981. “But that is only because they mixed my identity as a performer and as a composer. As a composer I have tried everything, even electronic music and avant-garde. But as a performer I am, believe me, getting more classical and more orthodox, jealously protecting the heritage that I have learned.” Teacher, performer, composer, Ravi Shankar was considered “the most eloquent spokesman for his country’s music.” Read today’s New York Times obituary here, and check out the EPL catalog for his music.


Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012

06brubeck-articleLargeLegendary jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck died Wednesday in Norwalk, Connecticut on his way to a cardiology appointment. Today would have been his 92nd birthday. His recording Time Out, which included the hit single “Take Five”  was the first jazz album to sell a million copies. Although some critics were not always kind, his music (whether original compositions or overhauled standards) remains recognizable and unique. “Forbidden to listen to the radio — his mother believed that if you wanted to hear music you should play it — Mr. Brubeck and his two brothers all played various instruments and knew classical études, spirituals and cowboy songs.” In 1954 he was featured on the cover of Time Magazine – the second jazz musician to do so (after Louis Armstrong). In 2009 he received a Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American culture. Read the full NYT article here. And check the library catalog for a listing of his music.


Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Prolific author, playwright, actor, and raconteur died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia at the age of 86. A versatile writer, he published 25 novels (The Golden Age, Lincoln, Myra Breckinridge to name a few), two memoirs and several volumes of essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas, and screenplays, including the the movie adaptation of his friend Tennessee Williams’s play Suddenly, Last SummerHis best known and most successful play was The Best Man which ran for 520 performances on Broadway and then became a successful film in 1964 starring Henry Fonda. He also ran for Congress in 1960, encouraged by his friend Eleanor Roosevelt. And although he lost, “he received more votes in running for the seat than any Democrat in 50 years”. The New York Times has an in-depth obituary in today’s paper, including his famous run-ins with William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. Fascinating article.


Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Known as the master of science fiction, Ray Bradbury died Tuesday at the age of 91. More than eight million copies of his books were sold during his lifetime, including the short-story collections The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and The Golden Apples of the Sun, and the novels Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, he and his family moved to California when he was 13. “Waukegan had everything that was good about a small town,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in a 1991 interview. “ There’s a park in Waukegan named in his honor. Mr. Bradbury was presented with the National Medal of  Arts in 2004 and received a special Pulitzer citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.” You can read the entire New York Times article here. For more of Mr. Bradbury’s works check the EPL catalog.

Richard Roeper’s column in today’s (June 7) Chicago Sun-Times is also worth reading.