I love this riff on Cole Porter's lyrical brilliance:
In 1911, Ezra Pound, who at this point in his life tended to wear “trousers made of green billiard cloth, a pink coat, a blue shirt, a tie hand-painted by a Japanese friend, an immense sombrero
Ezra Pound , a flaming beard cut to a point, and a single, large blue earring,” presented himself to the influential novelist and editor Ford Madox Ford—a corpulent Britisher conventionally dressed and heavily mustachioed, whose highly readable memoir is our source for Pound's attire. Pound had poetry for Ford to read.
When Cole Porter in “I Get a Kick Out of You” explains why he doesn't get one out of air travel, he gets an extraordinary amount of juice out of the sound of long i: “Flying too high in the sky / Is my idea of nothing to do.” That i keeps ascending in the mouth, pushing against the roof, and just when you think it's as high as 'twill fly—to the sky—it double-clutches, up, again, to my and then, again, to the initial i-; and tumbles: -dea of nothing to do. “'S Wonderful,” I would say, but that's Gershwin.
“There are other bones I might pick with my dictionary,” Blount declares on another randomly opened page (313). To wit: “It doesn't seem to realize that dickens, as in what the dickens, is a euphemism for devil, and it doesn't mention that a child can be called a little dickens.” On page 328, he's still going strong, declaring that he's "going to show you what is the most balanced word in English.... level. Balanced perfectly on the point of middle v."
I'll conclude this Blount sampler with one of his typically funny stories. The topic is "TV, being on."
I don't want to leave the impression that TV people are necessarily insensitive. Once I did an essay-to-camera about U.S. politics for BBC-TV. For part of it, I strolled past the Washington Monument, explaining America to the mother country. A tiny microphone was concealed on my person. The camera crew was way over on the other side of the street, a good fifty yards away. On the screen eventually back in Britain it would be clear that I was speaking to the viewer, but to passersby there in Washington I appeared to be talking to myself—or else to them, the passersby. “Excuse me?” someone would say, and we would have to start over. Before one take I cleared my throat so loudly that a kind old lady asked me if I was all right. “I'
m on television,” I explained. She looked at me sadly.
I didn't want her to think I was insane, or that I was putting her on. “See,” I confided, “I'm a writer, I don't usually do this kind of—this is the dumbest thing!” I cut my eyes over toward the TV people, decent hardworking folks. Clearly they had heard what I said, through our microphonic connection, and their feelings were hurt.