Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Roz Chast, _Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?_

MAUS, PERSEPOLIS, BLANKETS, Fun Home, Stitches, American Born Chinese, now this... is there something about the graphic form that lends itself particularly well to memoir? Why are so many of the strongest works in the emerging graphic canon non-fiction?

My guess: the fictional ones veer too easily into genre conventions of fantasy, science fiction, noir. They have a harder time escaping the gravitational pull of comic books. I like comic books, too, but....

There's always Chris Ware, though.

But here, as with the books in the list above, the blending of the painfully real with the stylization of comics-style drawing and story-telling creates an unforgettable book. We already knew from her decades of New Yorker panel cartoons that Chast was a keen-eyed but sympathetic observer of the absurdities of lives that are very, very circumscribed (by both circumstance and choice), so she is unsurprisingly good at capturing how her parents' live narrow down as their faculties fail--I was a little surprised, though, at how honest she can be as she shows herself again and again falling short of the ideal-child-of-aging-parents she wanted to be.

It's hard to be that ideal child of aging parents. Hard. What the book reveals ought not to be a surprise--at the end of things, you are still you, and your parents are still your parents--but she and many of the rest of us somehow got the idea that something epiphanic was supposed to occur. In a way, it does.

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