The Different Drummer: James Wood’s The Fun Stuff

A balding man in his early-to-mid 40s sits at a kitchen table, wearing a blue cardigan and a look of placid expectancy. A number of items are arranged in front of him on the tabletop—a paperback book, a large souvenir coffee mug, a plastic container. A child’s voice, off camera, can be heard giddily shouting “Go, Daddy, Go!” The man then begins a dextrous finger-drum solo; he starts out tamely enough, laying down a stolid 4/4 with the heel and fingers of his right hand, but gradually builds toward a sustained run of jazzy showboatery, using the various items as improvised kick drums, snares and cymbals. By the end of the two-minute video, he’s tearing it up like a Gene Krupa of kitchenalia, maintaining his benignly cocksure facial expression all the while, but clearly getting a kick out of how much of a kick his children are getting out of him. You could enjoy watching this YouTube video without knowing anything about this man—it’s entertaining enough just seeing a father thrilling his kids with an interlude of incidental virtuosity—but it adds an extra layer of counterintuitive delight to know that he is in fact James Wood, New Yorker staff writer and, arguably, one of the most influential cultural critics of his generation.

Read the rest at Slate

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