Lillian Ross, who became known as the consummate fly-on-the-wall reporter in more than six decades at The New Yorker, whether writing about Ernest Hemingway, Hollywood or a busload of Indiana high school seniors on a class trip to New York.
Ms. Ross preached unobtrusive reporting and practiced what she preached. She outlined her credo in the preface to her book “Reporting” (1964): “Your attention at all times should be on your subject, not on you. Do not call attention to yourself.” And true to form, on assignment, Ms. Ross asked very few questions and never used tape recorders but filled many notebooks.
In 1998 she published “Here but Not Here: A Love Story,” describing her 50-year love affair with William Shawn, the longtime editor of The New Yorker, who was married to someone else and who, if anything, had even been more compulsively guarded about his private life than she. Former associates at the magazine accused her of betrayal. Obviously though came out because of “their” son and his need for closure & bereavement had been denied.
Ms. Ross’s work was often cited as a precursor of the New Journalism of the 1960s, in which nonfictional material was presented in forms drawn from imaginative literature.
Her book “Reporting Always” was a collection of Ms. Ross’s journalism published in 2015. Credit Scribner
Astrologically Looking at Miss Ross
Miss Ross is a lipped bowl, with the lip in the Fourth House of fathers and home. Her Ascendant at 15 Gemini suggests that it was quite natural for her to live a dual life, and it did not bother her. She definitely enjoyed writing & all types of communication — with Jupiter in the First House she had a real zest for meeting and interviewing others.
Her Uranus is in her midheaven, which does suggest that she very much wanted to pioneer in some form of communication and with that disruptive planet square her Sun, it was a natural outgrowth of her personality that led to her what is called “New Reporting,” or literary reporting where the emphasis is on the subject and not the reporter.
That does not infer that she could not write fiction or whimsy as she has both Mercury and the Moon there, suggesting that she had a strong imagination tempered by a very intellectual outlook — journalism was a good outlet for such creative talents. With no oppositions in her chart, Miss Ross was her own person and redoubtable writer.
Interestingly, with Venus in Taurus, where is reigns, she most likely had a very pleasant almost musical voice that helped in her interviewing, as people would enjoy her company and conversation.
All of this supports that her “New Reporting” method was a natural for Miss Ross: she has nothing in the Western Hemisphere of the chart nor in the Second House, all which highlight “others” in the horoscope. She was very much a Resourceful Lady and with her Sun in her First House, Miss Ross she tended to be a solitary person who did it “her way.”
Lillian Ross died at age 99 of a stroke on September 19 2017 at Lenox Hill Hospital on the East Side of Manhattan. Her immediate survivor is her son Erik, whom she had adopted in Norway, and raised with Mr. Shawn as their son.