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The trying game

2011 April 27
by Paul Vallely

You would think that Roger Ebert churned out enough words in the course of his professional life without the need to add more on the side. After all, the Pulitzer-prize winning film critic writes movie reviews that are syndicated to more than 200 newspapers worldwide every week. Then there are his 15 books and his Emmy-nominated tv programmes. So much so that he has been described as “the most powerful pundit in America”.

And yet most weeks since the New Yorker magazine launched a regular cartoon contest some years back Mr Ebert has diligently penned an unpaid offering and sent it in. Without success. Until now. Last week his 281th effort was chosen by America’s favourite literary journal as its winner.

This testament to the virtue of persistence only goes to prove that, as another significant American, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light-bulb, said genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. His fellow countrymen might like to think of this as a peculiarly American virtue; after all it was Sugar Ray Robinson who held that to be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will. Not so. These islands were home to a much earlier icon of perseverance, Robert the Bruce, the original spiderman. Success, as Sir Winston Churchill rather more elegantly put it, is going from failure to failure, without a loss of enthusiasm.

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