Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (Paperback)
Bloomsbury USA, 9781632861016, 240pp.
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Other Editions of This Title:
#1 New York Times Bestseller
2014 National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the inaugural 2014 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the 2014 Books for a Better Life Award
Winner of the 2015 Reuben Award from National Cartoonists Society
In her first memoir, New Yorker cartoonist 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.
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; 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 shows the full range of Roz Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
About the Author
Roz Chast was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Connecticut. Her cartoons have appeared in countless magazines, and she is the author of many books, including The Party, After You Left.
She attended Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in Painting because it seemed more artistic. However, soon after graduating, she reverted to type and began drawing cartoons once again.
Praise For Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir…
"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
"Chast tackles those intimate and difficult changes with just the same humor and honesty as everything else. Readers who are starting to transition from children to caretakers of their own parents will find comfort in Chast’s work, and almost anyone can appreciate the pleas to talk about something more pleasant with your family." - Paste, 10 Comics to Help You Escape (or Appreciate) Your Family this Holiday Season
"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
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Have you had a similar discussion with your parents and/or children about aging and long-term care plans? What was the result? At what age do you think parents and children should have this conversation?
2. Which part(s) of the book, if any, could you relate to the most? Did you find yourself empathizing more with George and Elizabeth, or Roz? Did this change as you progressed through the book?
3. Which aspects of the role reversal Chast depicts—the child assuming a caretaker role—were the most striking to you? What emotions did you experience as you were reading about the challenges Roz, George, and Elizabeth all faced?
4. Whose experience is more frightening to you—George and Elizabeth’s, or Roz’s?
5. Which parts of the memoir made you laugh? Which made you cry? Did Chast’s use of humor surprise you? Do you think it’s necessary or inappropriate to approach this type of subject with humor?
6. Did your perceptions of George and Elizabeth as parents, spouses, and people in general change as the book went on? If so, in what ways?
7. In your opinion, what is the greatest loss that George and Elizabeth experience as they age?
8. Have you considered your own end-of-life plans? Why or why not? Was the book informational for you, and if so, what did you learn? Has reading this book changed your thinking about your own end-of-life care?
9. What is your opinion of Roz’s decision to keep her parents’ ashes in her closet?
10. Chast discusses at length her complicated feelings regarding her mother, and how her relationship with her mother differed greatly from the one she had with her father. Do you think this has an impact on Roz’s approach to her parents’ end-of-life care? Do you think Elizabeth was a good mother? Do you think Roz was a good daughter?
11. Toward the end of the book, Roz struggles with the financial cost of her mother’s care, compounded by the fact that she’s “not living and not dying.” What are your views regarding this hardship, and her mother’s condition?