TAKES: Stories from ""The Talk of the Town by Lillian Ross

TAKES: Stories from ""The Talk of the Town

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Like Talk Stories (1966) this is a gathering of Ross contributions to The New Yorker's un-bylined ""Talk of the Town"" section--36 of them from the past 20 years or so. (Annoyingly, the original publication dates of the pieces are found only in an afterword.) There are essentially straightforward mini-interviews with Harold Pinter, Harvard's Dean Rosovsky, Edward Albee, Francois Truffaut, and pianist Jimmy Lyon. There are unabashed eulogies to Ralph Bunche (quoting from family letters), to Adlai Stevenson (quoting from speeches circa 1965). And occasionally Ross adopts the slightly campy persona of ""Mr. Stanley""--who offers notebook-entry coverage of such events as Alexander H. Cohen's Tony Awards show. (""Follow Alex around the theatre. Alex spots big trash can filled with trash near in-house sound console, says 'Remove!' "") But Ross is at her peerless best when reporting in that leanly factual, invisibly witty, seemingly uninflected, but keenly selective New Yorker style--which is also on display in the work of some other ""Talk"" veterans, from Michael J. Aden (30 Seconds) to Alec Wilkinson (Midnights). Ross goes to a formal dinner aboard a Norwegian cruise ship, for instance--and, thanks to impeccably arranged quotation, Abe Beame (N.Y.C.'s comptroller then, later mayor) and his wife are soon delivering a charming Burns & Allen-like routine. There are two captivating glimpses of director John Huston (cf. Picture) in action: ""Through the window, he regarded Central Park as though it were Kenya bush country."" Ross is especially good in transit: on a stroll down Third Avenue with William Alfred, in a car with Mayor Koch (while he rehearses for his narrator-role in ""Peter and the Wolf""), or on the Concorde with her twelve-year-old son. And there is probably no other writer around who could turn a ho-hum question--""What has happened to the shave in barbershops?""--into the endearing, intriguing, yet all-fact little report here. Several gems, then, along with routine items and the inevitable lapse or two into New Yorker mannerism (lists, precious detail)--in a pleasant, often-nostalgic collection for New Yorkers and New Yorker-ites.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1983
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's