I was at a dinner party a little while ago where someone asked me if Iʼd read Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I had absolutely wanted to, but in the chronic frenzy of my life, Iʼd forgotten all about it. I couldnʼt believe I was messing up an opportunity to appear au courant. But now I have read it, and if there is such a thing as redemption in this world, Iʼll get some now by telling you about it.
This book is a perfect choice to start our 10964 book club because it is short, itʼs not too complicated, it is anything but stupid, and it has pictures to tell the story in case you donʼt like to read very much. What Chast has written is a graphic memoir.
I know what youʼre thinking…youʼre thinking sexually explicit. Well, youʼre wrong. Itʼs not. Itʼs a comic book - about real life - aging parents and their inevitable appointment with Death. No super heroes, except in as much as we are all heroes of our own lives.
Chastʼs drawings are gems of brutal honesty and buried affection, reflecting the complex emotions children often feel regarding their parents. She mixes them with pages of hand-printed text and family photos that underscore the simple authenticity of her story and establish intimacy.
Your parents donʼt have to be Jewish, or live in the same apartment their entire lives, or argue about every little thing all the time to rail against the relentless deterioration of advanced old age and the need to accept radical end-of-life change. And you donʼt have to be their only child to be forced into confrontation with their emotional and physical frailties. Like the work of Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? subverts our resistance to facing not-so-funny issues by cloaking them in the guise of a funny book.