Review: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant

Roz Chast’s memoir about her parents’ last years is almost a confessional.  She displays great courage in exposing her feelings and her family to the reader with great honesty. I respect the investment this takes.  I know from my parents’ experience in similar straits how raw the emotions this engenders.

That said, the work as a work never gets from the personal to the universal for me.  It’s not that I don’t feel some hint of how the experience is for others, but the descriptions of her parents and their world are so specific that it kept me at a distance as a reader.  I was always watching her react to that small and contracting world without becoming a participant.

The work itself is a comic, and like Logicomix, I think it was something of a missed opportunity. Chast’s style here is the loose line of a Feiffer or the New Yorker’s house style.  Her line is closer to Feiffer with his neurotic energy rather than a sterile distance, but the level of abstraction feels similar to me.  Combined with the distancing feeling that her family’s specific quirks gave me, the art reinforces the feeling that this is a clear depiction of a world that doesn’t draw me in.

It may be that Chast invokes a time and place very well that simply isn’t my time and place.

In any case, I’m left with some admiration for the work without being moved very much by it.

Your mileage may vary.

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