Book Review: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast


Walking to the printer last week, I passed by my friend Anne’s office doorway. “I have a book for you,” she said,” you’re going to love it.” One of the great perks of working in a bookstore is the camaraderie of coworkers who share your addiction for good tales. She handed me Roz Chast’s latest book, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

This was a fortuitous moment for me. The book I had originally planned to recommend for my May blog entry had gone from good to dud somewhere around page 210 and I was scrambling to replace it.  It took me little time to realize how truly wonderful Roz Chast’s graphic memoir is, everything and more than Anne had described. Those who read the New Yorker will recognize Chast as a frequent contributor. With a wicked wit, her quirky cartoons masterfully peel back the minutia of life’s trials and tribulations.

Funny, poignant and brutally honest; Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?   takes us through the last few years of her parents’ lives, pulling back the curtain to reveal what it’s like to get really, really old. It is an intimately honest, deeply personal look at family dynamics, of an only child becoming caretaker and of independent parents, married for 69 years, relinquishing control.

Avoidance, distraction, and denial are how Chast and her parents, George and Elizabeth, deal with unpleasant subjects and getting old is high up on the list. This works fine for everyone until denial, “something was coming down the pike,” is no longer an option.

Chast’s deft cartoon and storytelling skills work in tandem, serving up healthy doses of simultaneous sadness and humor.  Readers will find themselves grimacing and chuckling in the same paragraph.  How is such a thing possible? With tenderness, finesse and grace.

Thank you Anne.