Thomas Mallon: a “puffect” little digression

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Click to listen to the outtakes with Thomas Mallon (1 min, 500 kb)

From the editing room floor after our Thomas Mallon conversation, there’s a quick ramble here on Mallon’s awfully good ear for voices — and for sounds of region and rank that may never be heard again.

Mallon has the quotable crone Alice Roosevelt Longworth tuning in on her testy cousin Joe Alsop, the late Washington Post columnist, and wondering “why so many people in her own dying social class continued to speak in that maddening double slur of alcohol and lockjaw.”

In the Nixon Cabinet and in Mallon’s Watergate, Elliot Richardson speaks for the Boston branch of that aristocracy, in dry sherry tones of a bygone Brahmin erudition and social assurance. “First-rate, perfect,” Richardson said in praise of a Nixon speech. “Puffect,” he pronounced it, irritating Nixon,” Mallon writes.

Which reminded me of A.J. Liebling’s account in The Sweet Science of Rocky Marciano in training camp in the 1950s — Rocky Marciano from the shoe-manufacturing city of Brockton, Massachusetts — 25 or so miles and several social notches down the road from Elliot Richardson’s Brookline. And how was the Rock feeling, Liebling asked. “Peufict,” Marciano responded.


  • nother

    “Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Potter

    We can probably get a very good insight from fiction, especially such so well written, it seems, from the excerpts hear here. What a time this was! I had quite an appetite for knowing and appreciating our Constitution during this period, during the hearings,more than ever I did in school.

    All those characters! What a list! What entertainment! (I heard no mention here of John Dean and the so cool Maureen). Sam Ervin, at the hearings, was my hero, maybe everyone’s.

    I hated Nixon. One could easily see his dark side from the first. I wondered how we were going to get through his presidency. I softened only after his phenomenal resignation; I felt sorry for him. I think he changed this country politically for the worse, as brilliant as he was in foreign policy. It was he who, in my mind and experience, took this country down the road of the extremes of nasty partisan politics with his “dark side”. It was the party above all. He was so disabled by that greed for office and partisanship that he was not able to rise up and out of it for the sake of the country. It was an office which he wanted transparently resentfully after Kennedy took it away. Tricky Dick.

    Poor Pat Nixon. She was so so unhappy. It was written all over her face.

    Before “Tricky Dick” we had Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt. But looking back now (we have come such a long way) even Nixon, the liberal, seems preferable say to GW Bush ( and I say, Reagan and GHW Bush) and certainly certainly any of the scary characters that have been running on the Republican side the last year.