Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
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Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?

4.2 29
by Roz Chast

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#1 New York Times Bestseller


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


#1 New York Times Bestseller


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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alex Witchel
This is a beautiful book, deeply felt, both scorchingly honest about what it feels like to love and care for a mother who has never loved you back, at least never the way you had wanted, and achingly wistful about a gentle father who could never break free of his domineering wife and ride to his daughter's rescue. It veers between being laugh-out-loud funny and so devastating I had to take periodic timeouts. Cartoons, as it happens, are tailor-made for the absurdities of old age, illness and dementia, the odd dramas and grinding repetition expertly illustrated by copious exclamation points, capital letters and antic drawings. They also limit the opportunity for navel gazing and self-pity, trapping you in the surreal moments themselves.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
…Ms. Chast tackles the subject of her parents, writing with a new depth and amplitude of emotion. Her account of growing up with them in Brooklyn as an only child and her efforts, decades later, to help them navigate the jagged shoals of old age and ill health, is by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny…With Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Ms. Chast reminds us how deftly the graphic novel can capture ordinary crises in ordinary American lives, how a mixture of cartoons and photographs and text can create a family portrait with all the intimacy and emotional power of a conventional prose memoir.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/10/2014
“Something more pleasant” than the certainty of old age and death is what Chast’s parents would prefer to talk about, in this poignant and funny text-and-cartoon memoir of their final years. (In one cartoon, the Grim Reaper declares, “The Chasts are talking about me? Why, I’ll show them!”) Chast, a cartoonist who contributes frequently to the New Yorker, describes how her parents, George and Elizabeth, try her patience as she agonizes over their past and future. She 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. Like Raymond Briggs’s classic Ethel and Ernest, this is a cartoon memoir to laugh and cry, and heal, with—Roz Chast’s masterpiece. (May)
From the Publisher

“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

Library Journal
★ 03/15/2014
Chast (Theories of Everything) draws the Moving Sidewalk of Life with a sign: "Caution—drop-off ahead." The New Yorker cartoonist had vaguely thought that "the end" came in three stages: feeling unwell, growing weaker over a month or so in bed, and dying one night. But when her parents passed 90, she learned that "the middle [stage] was a lot more painful, humiliating, long-lasting, complicated, and hideously expensive" than she imagined. 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. VERDICT Like Joyce Farmer in Special Exits (LJ 9/15/10), 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.—M.C.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-23
A revelatory and occasionally hilarious memoir by the New Yorker cartoonist on helping her parents through their old age. Few graphic memoirs are as engaging and powerful as this or strike a more responsive chord. Chast (What I Hate, 2011, etc.) 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 as the only child of parents who had never even dated anyone else and whose deep bond left little room for this intruder in their midst. Yet, "the reality was that at 95, their minds and bodies were falling apart," and these two people who had only relied on each other were forced to rely on a host of caretakers, their daughter in particular, and to move from the Brooklyn apartment that had been home for half a century into a series of facilities that provided fewer and fewer amenities at escalating expense. Chast rarely lapses into sentimentality and can often be quite funny, as she depicts mortality as "The Moving Sidewalk of Life" ("Caution: Drop-Off Ahead") or deals with dread and anxiety on the "Wheel of DOOM, surrounded by the ‘cautionary' tales of my childhood." The older her parents get, the more their health declines and the more expensive the care they require, the bleaker the story becomes—until, toward the end, a series of 12 largely 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.

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet 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. This is her first memoir.

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Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is laugh out loud funny. The cartoons with captions only add to hilarity. Been there and done that and know humor is sometimes the only thing to get you through. True feeling and efforts at doing right for parents comes through loud and strong.
Runner510 More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliant book, sometimes hilarious and often heartbreaking and frightening. Chast tells (mostly with her characteristic cartoons, though there are also short sections of handwritten text) of the aging and inexorable decline of her parents, who both lived to over 90, but along the way she reveals much about her own childhood and the kookiness of her household. Her WHEEL OF DOOM--a diagram showing dire parental warnings that progress, for instance, from &quot;Sitting directly on the ground&quot; to &quot;A cold in your kidneys&quot; to, of course, DEATH--is classic Chast and had me laughing uncontrollably for about 10 minutes. As the book progresses, there is less humor as Chast details the brutal task of dealing with her parents' infirmities, and she is incredibly honest about all her conflicted feelings. She in unsparing when depicting the indignities that come with old age and the many difficulties that come along with trying to help the elderly at the end of their lives. Chast has put together something that is wildly humorous while also being unspeakably sad--an amazing feat.
TheIndigoQuill More than 1 year ago
See full review @ The Indigo Quill . blogspot . com Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? : A Memoir, Is a graphic novel by Roz Chast that tells the story of her experiences caring for her elderly parents as they make their way through the least popular stage of life; the last one. Chast uses her unique and candid voice and eccentric drawing style to illuminate a very dark topic in society. What she creates is a story that is equal parts hilarious, heartwarming and downright depressing.  Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant gives a brutally honest account of the author&rsquo;s life and the lives of her parents from childhood to the inevitable conclusion. Chast pulls no punches when describing the challenges of caring for an aging parent. She manages to distill every moment of heartache and comedy out of everything from senility to generational differences to just plain stubbornness. Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is part biography, part memoir, part new Yorker comic, except it&rsquo;s actually funny. The comedic portions are extremely funny but the dark aspect to the humor had me wondering if I should be laughing at times. The idiosyncrasies of Chast and her family make for some truly funny moments until they are put against the backdrop of the hurt that bore them. In that sense, Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a perfect slice of the human experience; funny on the surface, dig a bit deeper and it is morbidly depressing, see the big picture and everything kind of turns out all right.  The entire book feels like a therapeutic exercise on the part of the author. She really delves into the problems she had with her parents, especially her mother and how those problems affected their dynamic later in life. Extremely complex feelings are unearthed and captured in comic form. The medium of the comic lends a lighthearted air to what is a very uncomfortable subject, but Chast also uses it to profound effect to plumb the depths of familial relations. Her brutal honesty for her portrayal of events is only matched by her brutal honesty about herself. For every strip about an annoying quirk of her father or the brash overbearing nature of her mother, there is one about her own guilt over her impatience with her parents or selfish thoughts. It all goes a long way toward chronicling the unceasingly arduous, mercilessly expensive, insanity inducing and at times extremely funny experience of taking care of the people who once took care of you.  Calvin and Hobbes holds the same kind of importance for young, only children as Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant will hold for those in the sandwich generation. It is the quintessential dark comedy for anyone with aging parents but should by no means be limited to that. Within hours of reading it, I had already recommended it to everyone close to me. I would recommend it to anyone who is in need of a laugh, a cry, or both at the same time. Can&rsquo;t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is incredibly evocative and charming and is well worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I sometimes thought she over shared, not in her experience but her own personal thought processes ( ex. inheritance running out). That's more something I would confide in a good friend, then write down for the world to see. On the other hand, that same fresh honesty in other areas was really very informative. I loved her stories she shared, old photos, etc. I thought it was a really beautiful book. It kept my interest, and I finished in one day. I will be passing this to my own mother who is currently caring for my aging grandmother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being a baby boomer and having had parents who survived to almost ninety, this book takes a rather unfortunate subject, and makes it enlightening through humor. The author has great observational skills, which she employs to depict her aging parents circumstances as they age from the "golden" years, to the more difficult "survival" years. The book is written in a comic book style, which allows the reader to digest and enjoy a difficult subject. When you are caring for aging parents, you sometimes wonder if you are alone, but reading this book made me realize I was not. My sister read it as well, and we both agreed that this is one of the most accurate portrayals of aging that we have ever come across.
voyager8 More than 1 year ago
Wow Roz Chast is on point with this graphic memoir that traces her parents elder years to  their deaths in their mid to late 90s. My parents are in their nineties and still living &quot;independantly&quot; so this is exactly what my sister and I are going thru now..amazingly acurate, informationa; and sometimes sad a must read if your in the situation!
Ziggy317 More than 1 year ago
A great book for anyone who has mortal parents -- I read the book and then read it again.  I wish she had written it two years ago when I was going through a lot of the same experiences.  And now I'm going to throw some stuff away, so my children don't have to.
Swampgal2 More than 1 year ago
Required reading for anyone who suddenly finds herself handling business of  frail elderly parents. Beautiful humor and loving respect. Thank you Roz Chast for talking about the unpleasant. This gorgeous book will grace our coffee table for years. Thinking of giving it to my sons  When I reach a certain age! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I heard Roz Chast on NPR talking about her book. I have a dear friend who recently had to move her mother into care, and my father-in-law is in hospice at home. My own mom died at 58,but my dad is going strong at 83. There are so many parallels and yet so many differences between my experience and Ms. Chast's, that I found a lot comfort and empathy in this book. We will all take the journey one way or another, and we will all deal with the same stuff. This was an excellent way to process and share their troubled story. I say read and enjoy while you grieve.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just couldn't put this book down. Anyone living with, caring for, or providing for an elderly parent needs to read it. You will be able to relate to the author. Very graphic emotional roller coaster. The book openly describes many end of life issues and choices that all of us face in the future. The humor is very stress relieving and real. I would recommend this book to anyone dealing with end of life issues.
BrowserCatMom More than 1 year ago
In this graphic memoir, Roz Chast confronts the reality of adult children caring for geriatric parents. She is so blatantly honest about her own coping skills (and lack thereof) that if not for her touching and amazing sense of humor, it would almost be unbearable to read. This is especially so if you are currently in the midst of caring for your own beloved, but wretchedly declining, mom or dad - an experience that can be gratifying, horrific, frightening, frustrating and guilt-inducing. She lets us know that we are not alone in this maze and that we will, eventually, find our way out of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful testament of her imperfect parents.
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Brunette_Librarian More than 1 year ago
      I am so very moved by this little book filled with pictures. Simple yet so complex, Roz Chast explores a section of our lives we never wish to truly discuss; the end of life preparation and care of our parents. It&rsquo;s a unique experience few of us think too much about but will all experience to some level.      Roz shares her experiences with elderly parents and the inevitable problems of getting older. As an only child, Roz is tasked with taking care of her 90+ year old father and mother who live in New York. She discusses illnesses, child guilt, elder care and ultimately death in a serious yet comedic style. Told through pictures and words, Roz&rsquo;s story is one we all can relate to, even if we aren&rsquo;t at that point in our lives. Well written, you can&rsquo;t help but empathize and giggle as Roz shares her experiences.        Considered one of the best books of 2014, I can easily see why it would deserve the honor. Balancing comedy, kindness, and real life situations and feelings, Chast ultimately asks, can&rsquo;t we talk about something a little more pleasant?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alix1 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, having recently been through much of the same things. It was so true but also humorous. I recommend it highly for anyone who has or is dealing with elderly parent issues.
Burncoatgirl More than 1 year ago
Roz Chast has captured every end of life decision, issue and struggle of our parents' lives. With words and pictures that support and comfort us - the caregivers - we are not alone. We are encouraged to cry, laugh and be thoughtful, and there was nothing missing. Cleaning out my mother's house to sell it was an archaeological dig into my life as well as hers. Making legal, medical and financial decisions were made thoughtfully. I have bought several copies of this memoir and given them to my attorney, therapist, financial adviser and sibling; and may gift them to others as time and circumstance arise. Roz Chast was my constant and reliable companion through the last six months of my mother's life, and I could not have asked for better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book hit home, caring for my elderly mom. The author sounded like me. :)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This looks like a very entertaining book but I must say the words are so hard to read because the letters are so small. The format is not the usual font but made to look handprinted in little tiny letters because of the cartoons. I make the pages as big as possible but still have to strain to read it. Very annoying, wish I would have known this before I bought it.