A conversation with Graeme Wood, author of “I Went to Disney World”

  
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Hi there, Article Clubbers! This month, we’re reading and discussing “I Went to Disney World,” by Graeme Wood, writer at The Atlantic and author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters With the Islamic State. It’s a great article that explores the reopening of “the happiest place on Earth” smack dab in the middle of this summer’s surge of the coronavirus. Besides being hilarious, the piece brings up serious questions as well, like whether Disney as a private corporation might provide better governance than our actual government.

Last week, I got the chance to talk with Mr. Wood and ask him some of our questions. He was generous and thoughtful — and shared some extra details about his Disney visit. Please take a listen! Here’s an excerpt:

“I really believe that you cannot write about things that are serious without a sense of humor as well — and not just because it’s psychologically necessary, that is, it’s not just because you need to have a little happiness in your life to get by. No, I think because if you have nothing but solemnity in a piece, then no one believes in the solemnity. The solemnity actually doesn’t come through. It seems instead to be unreal. What you need is some relief, almost in the geographic sense, of high and low. The deeper the dark portions — that depth is revealed by the happiness in the higher portions. And you have to be honest about when that humor or that irony exists; otherwise, people will not understand how bad the darkness can be. You have to have both. If you don’t have one, then the other one will not actually land in the correct way. And also, you’re not going to be honest.”

After listening to the interview, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Did anything surprise you or change your ideas about the article?

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Coming up at Article Club
  • Sunday 9/27: We’ll discuss the article via Zoom. There’s still time to sign up for the 4-5 PT session!

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Article Club is a newish experiment in community reading. We read and discuss one outstanding article or book chapter every month. We invite the author to join our conversation, too. If you’re interested, sign up and check us out! Article Club is part of The Highlighter, a weekly newsletter featuring the best articles on race, education, and culture.