As far as I can remember, the environment I grew in was packed with lies. My elders believed that my uncle, who was not perfect but was a good man nonetheless, was not suitable to go to heaven because he was gay. Another said he loved his partner but his actions said otherwise. People all around me would deal with matters on the surface, but not touch the core. It was a confusing and frustrating time to try to find a foundation of things to believe in.
The only place I found refuge was sports and art, particularly the commercial ones, meaning books and movies. You cannot argue with sports and there is no refuting the honesty you find in art. Sure there was a lot of garbage out there, but if you search long and hard enough you will find true, honest art. Akin to finding a flower in the desolation of a desert, it is pure and usually the most beautiful of all.
Finding it of course entailed much searching, and so when I discovered that there were writers who would actually help search for you, and would do so using the same standards you held important to you, was like being guided by a light.
I have to say, discovering Roger Ebert decades ago made me believe in the idea not only of writing with a purpose but just outright honesty as a whole. Saying what you really feel about something was beyond foreign to me. It was just a thrashing of pure honesty, like (here we go with metaphors again) finding a lightswitch after much stumbling around in the dark.
Not only was this man saying that there was such a thing as good art and bad art, and that it is not defined by what people say it is but how it makes you feel, he was also talking the truth when he described it. He cut through the idiocy that is hype and affirmed what you really felt. What no one dared say he wrote and consequently unseated ideas and people whom were thought unseatable. It wasn’t so much prose as to what he wrote and the honesty he wrote it with.
And it was brilliant. To an impressionable guy toying with the idea of writing my own words forming my own opinions, it was just absolutely almost cruelly, cuts like a knife through all of the lies and ugliness, just beautiful and brilliant. I endeavored then to not only try to write in the same spirit but live my life the same way. Which is to say if I saw something ugly I would say it ugly, and when I saw something beautiful I would say it is beautiful, and the good whatever-it-is-up-there knows that is easier said than done. Everyday I struggle to keep to that ideal because it is not easy.
Right now as I write this I know I am coming to terms with his passing and maybe even beginning to realize his death is probably not all for naught, for one considering he might have been struggling and so therefore death would have been a relief, and also because such is life, really. You make your mark on this world and leave. No one gets to stay and your leaving creates an impact in itself to the people whom you have affected. Death makes a great man even greater because now you cannot touch him, you cannot contact him to influence him in some way, to change his mind or to make him redo anything he had done. Everything he had written will now stay the same forever.
He amongst many others have helped form how I write and his leaving is no more or less tragic. I will miss his opinion because I so valued it. I am glad he wrote so much because I will refer to them when I forget how important it is to be honest when you write.