Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir (Hardcover)
May 2014 Indie Next List
“Favorite New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast has produced an intensely personal graphic memoir dealing with the last years of her parents' lives. With a mixture of wit and sorrow, Chast documents her personal travails in coping with her parents' decline and demise. For those with viable parents, this book could be used as a preparation. For those whose parents have passed, it's a gentle, reassuring, and sometime maddening reminder of those difficulties and emotions already experienced. For that difficult phase of life that we must all face, it is a tender and touching view of how one person coped.”
— Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
#1 New York Times Bestseller
2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the crazy closet -with predictable results-the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.
While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies-an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades-the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
About the Author
Roz Chast grew up in Brooklyn. Her cartoons began appearing in the New Yorker in 1978. Since then, she has published more than one thousand cartoons in the magazine. She has written and illustrated many books, including What I Hate: From A to Z, and the collections of her own cartoons The Party After You Left and Theories of Everything. She is the editor of The Best American Comics 2016 and the illustrator of Calvin Trillin's No Fair! No Fair! and Daniel Menaker's The African Svelte, all published in Fall 2016.
"Poignant and funny . . . [Chast] brings her parents and herself to life in the form of her characteristic scratchy-lined, emotionally expressive characters, making the story both more personal and universal. Despite the subject matter, the book is frequently hilarious, highlighting the stubbornness and eccentricities (and often sheer lunacy) of the author’s parents. It’s a homage that provides cathartic "you are not alone" support to those caring for aging parents . . . This is a cartoon memoir to laugh and cry, and heal, with—Roz Chast’s masterpiece." -Publishers Weekly, starred review"Revelatory . . . Few graphic memoirs are as engaging and powerful as this or strike a more responsive chord. Chast retains her signature style and wry tone throughout this long-form blend of text and drawings, but nothing she's done previously hits home as hard as this account of her family life . . . A series of wordless drawings of her mother's final days represents the most intimate and emotionally devastating art that Chast has created. So many have faced (or will face) the situation that the author details, but no one could render it like she does. A top-notch graphic memoir that adds a whole new dimension to readers' appreciation of Chast and her work." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review"Chast's scratchy art turns out perfectly suited to capturing the surreal realities of the death process. In quirky color cartoons, handwritten text, photos, and her mother's poems, she documents the unpleasant yet sometimes hilarious cycle of human doom. She's especially dead-on with the unpredictable mental states of both the dying and their caregivers: placidity, denial, terror, lunacy, resignation, vindictiveness, and rage. . . Chast so skillfully exposes herself and her family on the page as to give readers both insight and entertainment on a topic nearly everyone avoids. As with her New Yorker cartoons, Chast's memoir serves up existential dilemmas along with chuckles and can help serve as a tutorial for the inevitable." - Library Journal, starred review
“If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of Roz Chast’s quavery, quietly desperate, antimacassar-bestrewn universe, look no further. This grim, sidesplitting memoir about the slow decline of her meek father and overpowering mother explains it all. Bedsores, dementia, broken hips—no details are spared, and never has the abyss of dread and grief been plumbed to such incandescently hilarious effect. The lines between laughter and hysteria, despair and rage, love and guilt, are quavery indeed, and no one draws them more honestly, more…unscrimpingly, than Roz Chast.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
“Reading Roz Chast has always had the quality of eavesdropping on a person’s private mutterings-to-herself. In this memoir of a most wretched time in her life, Chast is at the top of her candid form, delivering often funny, trenchant, and frequently painful revelations — about human behavior, about herself — on every page.” —David Small, author of Stitches
“After I read this brilliant book, I urged all my friends to read it. Now I have moved on to strangers. So take this book to the cash register this instant. You won’t regret it.” —Patricia Marx, author of Starting from Happy and Him Her Him Again the End of Him
“Roz Chast squeezes more existential pain out of baffled people in cheap clothing sitting around on living-room sofas with antimacassar doilies in crummy apartments than Dostoevsky got out of all of Russia’s dark despair. This is a great book in the annals of human suffering, cleverly disguised as fun.” —Bruce McCall, New Yorker cartoonist and author of Bruce McCall’s Zany Afternoons and The Last Dream-o-Rama