Members of the Six and Twenty Club met Friday, Oct. 5 in the Chester Township home of Kathleen Blake. Blake also served as program leader.
”Reporting Always”, a collection of Lillian Ross’ New Yorker articles and Talk of the Town pieces spanning 60 years, is the book she is passing through the club this year. Ross died last year at age 99.
Blake explained that Ross helped to elevate written story-telling to an art.
Her sense of form, and humorous details made her writing impressive and influential, taking the reader into Robin Williams’ living room, onto John McEnroe’s tennis court, into Hemingway’s, John Huston’s and Charlie Chaplin’s hotel rooms, and to the hangouts of privileged school children in Manhattan.
Lillian Ross joined The New Yorker in 1945. She continued to appear in its pages for the next 70-odd years. Her style and tone became a standard to which later writers aspired.
Offering advice via a 2001 interview, Ross counseled reporters to: “Be interested in your subject, not in yourself. Listen carefully with your own ears; don’t turn over the job to a tape recorder to listen for you. Be accurate, honest, responsible. Do homework and be prepared. Don’t try to go where you’re not welcome. Don’t write about anybody you don’t like. Find the humor in everything you see, or hear, or feel. If you have anything to say, about the world, about life, look for a way to say it without making a speech.”
The remainder of the program focused on The New Yorker magazine, its past and current influence on America, the life of EB White and the book Points of My Compass, which contained selected letters White sent to The New Yorker from 1954 through 1962.
Deceased club member Dorothy Kirk passed the book through the club in 1963.
Blake closed her program with White’s comments for a 1969 Paris Review interview: “I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”