Confronting the Inevitable, Graphically

A full-page panel from Roz Chast’s new memoir, featuring “cautionary” tales from her childhood. Credit Roz Chast

A full-page panel from Roz Chast’s new memoir, featuring “cautionary” tales from her childhood. (Illustration by Roz Chast)

Review by Michiko Kakutani
May 5, 2014—The New York Times

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

#1 New York Times Bestseller / 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir
By Roz Chast
(Bloomsbury, 2014)

Roz Chast feels — and draws — our pain. Our neurotic worries and genuine fears, our mundane and existential anxieties, our daydreams, nightmares, insecurities and guilty regrets. Or, rather, she does such a funny, fluent job in her New Yorker cartoons of conveying the things that keep her up at night that many readers are convinced that she is somehow mapping their own inner lives.

It hasn’t been hard to discern the autobiographical impulse in Ms. Chast’s work. Though her earliest cartoons tended to be more conceptual, many of the later ones in her “selected, collected, & health-inspected” anthology “Theories of Everything” (2006) are clearly informed by her experiences as a daughter, wife and mother.

Her account is…by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

In her latest book, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,” Ms. Chast tackles the subject of her parents, writing with a new depth and amplitude of emotion. Her account of growing up with them in Brooklyn as an only child and her efforts, decades later, to help them navigate the jagged shoals of old age and ill health, is by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Her fondness for the exclamatory (expressed in capital letters, underlined words and multiple exclamation points) is cranked up several notches here, and her familiar, scribbly people go from looking merely frazzled and put-upon to looking like the shrieking figure in Munch’s “The Scream” — panicked and terrified as they see the abyss of loss and mortality looming just up the road.

Read the full review

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Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2974415030_cant_we_talk_about_something_more_pleasant

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781608198061

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18594409-can-t-we-talk-about-something-more-pleasant?from_search=true

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