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Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Roz Chast
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2014

#1 New York Times Bestseller

2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST FOR NONFICTION

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.


Frequently Bought Together

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir + What I Hate: From A to Z + Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006
Price For All Three: £41.57

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608198065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198061
  • Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

By turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Ms. Chast reminds us how deftly the graphic novel can capture ordinary crises in ordinary American lives. (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)

A tour de force of dark humor and illuminating pathos about her parents' final years as only this quirky genius of pen and ink could construe them. (Elle)

An achievement of dark humor that rings utterly true. (Washington Post)

One of the major books of 2014 . . . Moving and bracingly candid . . . This is, in its original and unexpected way, one of the great autobiographical memoirs of our time. (Buffalo News)

Better than any book I know, this extraordinarily honest, searing and hilarious graphic memoir captures (and helps relieve) the unbelievable stress that results when the tables turn and grown children are left taking care of their parents. . . [A] remarkable, poignant memoir. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Very, very, very funny, in a way that a straight-out memoir about the death of one's elderly parents probably would not be . . . Ambitious, raw and personal as anything she has produced. (New York Times)

Devastatingly good . . . Anyone who has had Chast's experience will devour this book and cling to it for truth, humor, understanding, and the futile wish that it could all be different. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Gut-wrenching and laugh-aloud funny. I want to recommend it to everyone I know who has elderly parents, or might have them someday. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Joins Muriel Spark's Memento Mori, William Trevor's The Old Boys, and Kingsley Amis's Ending Up in the competition for the funniest book about old age I've ever read. It is also heartbreaking. (Barnes & Noble Review)

Revelatory. 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 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)

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)

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, author of Bruce McCall's Zany Afternoons)

Book Description

Something completely new from New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, a graphic memoir that walks the line between poignancy and humor as she tells the personal story of her parents' final years.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our parents lives...and ours? 9 May 2014
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Cartoonist Roz Chast has written/drawn a book about her parents' final years, "Can't We Talk About Something Pleasant". In it she describes both her own upbringing - only child, born late-in-life to older and neurotic parents - and how her feelings as a child hindered her dealing with the parents as they aged. She is certainly not alone in her mixed-up emotions towards her parents; most of us have the same feelings. Roz Chast can just express them better!

This is a difficult book to read. It must have been excruciating to live through and then put down on paper. But it is a book that all us "boomers" (hate the word but what else is there? "Lunch meat in the sandwich generation"?) should read. Because I'm not sure too much is going to change when we reach our 80's and 90's. We tend to have fewer children - Roz was an only child, as I noted above - and so fewer people to share the burdens of us as we age. Will we be put in Assisted Living "places" with the alacrity we seem to be putting our own parents into? For the record, both my parents died in nursing homes where they received excellent care.

Roz Chast's parents - George and Elizabeth - lived well into their 90's. And they aged "together". They tried to take care of themselves and each other in their dingy Brooklyn apartment, but it came the time to get them the extra care they could no longer give themselves. Roz describes how going through her parents' vacated apartment was like going through a junk store haven. And she shows photographs - as well as using her drawings - to show how crowded the apartment truly was.

The reader may come away thinking Roz had conflicted feelings about her parents. She sure did and she was certainly entitled to those feelings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
‘Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?’ written by Roz Chast is a memoir of the last several years of author’s parents.

While telling her story, Roz Chast is in same time very emotional, while in next moment very honest, sometimes even painfully brutal in her honesty.

Roz took care of her aging parents as their only child who didn’t forget and turn back to those people who many years ago when she was a child took care of her. In her story she manages to present process of acceptance that no matter how painful is to realize your parents are leaving, that is the only way things could go.

Already emotionally deep story is enhanced with author’s usage of actual photographs and cartoons, while her great sense of humor helps both her and reader to accept the inevitable.

Therefore, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?’ is good book that can be mostly recommended for people who are going through the similar experience as author did though all the rest could also use it as good starting point for talking, either as a bit old parent, or adult child who will soon must start taking care of beloved parents.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can"t we talk about something more pleasant 18 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the strength on an interview I read with the author and I"m so glad that I did. I found this book to be in turns brave, deeply moving and very funny. I would highly recommend
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book! 14 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Made me laugh out loud in places, also brought tears to my eyes. Took me back to searching for nursing homes for my parents 7 years ago. This book is written about the system in the USA, but there are plenty of similarities to the UK system for caring for ageing relations. The drawings are wonderful - very simple, but full of character. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is likely to be caring for aged parents.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Killing Us Softly 9 Sep 2014
By Keizu
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roz Chast is some kind of comic genius. Somehow she manages to skewer the victims without undoing their humanity. It's as if Gary Larsson were combined with Jane Austin to write a graphic nobel about the 20th century Jewish-italian-American coming of age experience. What's truly remarkable is her ability to zoom in in some extremely painful topics and the quite awful qualities of her family and herself that typified that generation without losing her humanity. In fact, her compassion and optimism is the magical ingredient. This bookmgoes far beyond autobiography. It's not about death. It's really about life.
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