“Dah Dah Doo Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Doo Dah La Ti Mi Fa La So Fa Mi” — John McPhee (The New Yorker)
This feature story is a first-person narrative about a 10-year-old boy named John who has his first drink while playing football with friends. John McPhee has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1963.
The tale begins with a bunch of boys playing football, when one of the boys shows up with a bottle of whiskey. Though the year is unknown, it takes place during Albert Einstein’s life, because the scientist actually stops by to watch the boys playing football.
John describes the smell, taste and moment of ingestion of the alcohol on his juvenile body. After John takes a few gulps of whiskey, he realizes he has to race home for his piano lesson. He runs inside and quickly douses his mouth with Colgate toothpaste and joins his piano teacher, like nothing has happened.
Though this story is short, it interested me personally by how John describes alcohol from a 10-year-old’s perspective. I found it interesting that Albert Einstein plays a small part in this tale. Also, I laughed when I pictured young John drenching his mouth in toothpaste to mask the smell from his piano teacher, Miss Jackson.
The moment he sits down with his friends to try his first taste of alcohol was particularly descriptive:
“ The sniff. The snort. The dilation of the nose. The glowing briquet in the throat. As the gastroentomologist Ian Frazier has reflected after munching brown-drake mayflies, it was hard to stop at just one.”
This description actually takes me to the scene. I can clearly picture this little kid experimenting with an alcoholic drink for the first time.
This feature story is based on something that happened in the writer’s life, not really something that can be proved true or false, unless you were there. However, the credibility comes from the author. John McPhee has written hundreds of articles for The New Yorker and Time. In 1982, he was granted the Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Award for service to the nation.
I would not say this article follows the journalistic style, because it is told like a story. The grammar and punctuation are perfect, but the story is told in first-person point-of-view (which is necessary for the sake of the story).
The purpose of the story was to entertain. There really is no informative concept to the story. John was merely telling an astounding story from his childhood.