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Gossip connoisseurs will gorge on Ross's tasty tidbits. As a child in Chicago, Bill Shawn narrowly escaped murder by renowned thrill killers Leopold and Loeb, who left Bill's house and kidnapped Bobby Franks instead. Bobby died and Bill became a famously shy victim of phobias--blood, violence, heights, confinement, or darkness could make him, in his own self-imploding way, go postal. When Bill's mom hired a nurse to save him from scarlet fever, the nurse "decided he needed, in addition to nursing, some sexual education. 'To my astonishment, she provided both, but I don't think it did me any harm,' Bill told me."
He was then a child of 12. It does not occur to Ross that sex might have long-term effects of any consequence. She feels zero guilt that she set up a love nest in Marlene Dietrich's old apartment 10 blocks from Shawn's family, and adopted a child, and had a phone put in by Shawn's bed, and spent Christmases with him, leaving Thanksgivings free for Shawn to spend with his wife and biological children. "Bill assured me that Cecille was going along with our arrangements. From time to time, I would think: Maybe she loves him so much she wants him to have what keeps him alive." Meow!
Mrs. Shawn, as Ved Mehta notes in his 1998 book, Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker, was a reporter who supported her husband when they got to New York, and even got him his fateful job at the magazine, prior to devoting herself to their family. Ross got assignments from Shawn that made her famous, but she notes, "We never experienced even a moment of 'conflict of interest' problems, for the simple reason that we never had any conflict of interest.... If I wanted to see Bill in his office, I called his secretary, like everyone else."
"I have always been less inclined than most people I know to indulge in self-analysis," writes Ross. She may be a renowned reporter, but her own mind is one subject that entirely escapes her notice.
Annoyed that romantic emotions were spoiling her mood when her career took off in 1950 ("I felt I should have been having a lot of fun. Instead, I was being emotionally distracted and drained"), Ross did what any disgruntled journalist would do. She spent a year and a half at company expense in Hollywood, playing tennis with Charlie and Oona Chaplin, bonding with Bogart and Bacall, and writing the classic book Picture about her dear friend John Huston's movie The Red Badge of Courage. Ross became an A-list partygoer, the first major showbiz reporter with highbrow credentials, and Huston and company handed her a story much better than the movie in question. "I thought I was the luckiest reporter in the history of journalism," writes Ross, who may be right. And no wonder she was such a hit: cute, connected, willing to listen to egomaniacs and let subjects read her drafts before publication, Ross was, like the showbiz-titan pals of Carrie Fisher that are celebrated in her Hollywood roman à clef Delusions of Grandma, "ruthless and glad."
But Ross's impersonal journalism method works better with big, showy subjects such as Huston or Ernest Hemingway. Faced with the elusive Mr. Shawn, who practically had the power to cloud men's minds so that they could not see him, she fails to illuminate his heart for the reader, despite all the fascinating facts at her command. And does she know how classically, rascally masculine a lot of Shawn's lines sound? Many of them boil down to "My staff doesn't understand me."
Ross notes that William Shawn's brother Mike wrote the Doublemint ad jingle "Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun." William clearly doubled Lillian's fun. But with Mr. Shawn, doubleness wasn't the half of it. --Tim Appelo
Although her story is not a universal experience, it is similar to some who read it. Certainly, many who choose to pick it up, will for that very reason. Read morePublished 5 months ago by anna paola
A great insight into one of America's best and longest running magazines. A great love story between 2 of the magazine's prominent & faithful employees.Published on November 1, 2012 by BSS
Not the greatest book, but learned about the New Yorker. Felt excluded from their true relationship. Wonder what her other books are like.Published on November 5, 2011 by Kl Polovina
Lillian Ross spent almost forty years as the mistress of William Shawn, the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987. Read morePublished on April 21, 2009 by Charlene Vickers
Lillian Ross was a talented even gifted writer. She comes across in this book as a intelligent charming and caring person. Read morePublished on September 20, 2004 by S. A Troutt
Poor Shawn! He seems to have had impeccable taste in everything save mistresses. The misbegotten issue of their liaison is this unique instance of a grotesque lapse in editorial... Read morePublished on June 29, 2003
One day George Eliot wrote a letter to her friend Mrs. Bray. If there is any one action or relation of my life,¹ she wrote, "which is and always has been profoundly serious,... Read morePublished on December 1, 1998