Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast. And yet, with Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? June 18 6:00 pm North Hero Public Library. The book comes to life “in vivid layers of anxiety, guilt, grime, humor, love, and sadness.”. 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? When we take up the story in 2001, George and Elizabeth, who were born 10 days apart in 1912, have been married for 63 years. She loves birds, including her pet African grey parrot named Eli, a misnamed female, whose vocabulary of words and phrases includes “Look, dammit!” and “You’re fired!” (New York Times) She likes supermarket cans that advertise unusual contents, like squid, which she collects and displays on a shelf in her writing/drawing studio in her Connecticut home. “I hope it comes across that my feelings for them were complex, but that I do think of them as amazing people. Even now, a full month after I first read it, I still can't stop myself from quoting its best lines over the breakfast table in what I imagine to be a comedy Brooklyn accent. A page from Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant. Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones. Did some of the details surprise you? Do you or your family possess objects that have never been thrown away? 2. Are Roz’s parents disrespected in any way? 6:30 PM. Did you find the portrayal of Chast’s parents sympathetic? Roz Chast (Photo via) Information about the author is available at her website. won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2014 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Born ten days apart and married in 1938, her parents did everything together in a rhythm all their own. Through words and illustrations, with evident pain and remarkable humor, Roz Chast revisits the struggle she went through with her aging parents as their physical and mental abilities gradually declined and they eventually became unable to care for themselves. No doubt you’ll want to talk about that role-reversal and how to handle it. What emotions did you experience as you were reading about the challenges Roz, George, and Elizabeth all faced? Rightey-ho, this should get you started. Reading Group Choices features a curated collection of the latest book recommendations for your reading group. What are some of the reasons that people may feel isolated in today’s society? Which parts of the memoir made you laugh? Book Discussion: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant book discussion. 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. “You don’t have to choose, and the two are often greater than the sum of their parts.” Take, for example, one of her much-loved cartoons published in the New Yorker in 1997 showing a man on an urban sidewalk holding a sign that says, “The End is Near.” Next to him is a woman who appears to be his wife. Which part(s) of the book, if any, could you relate to the most? Tuesday, March 19. 5. I was terrified of lockjaw. Perhaps you’ll want to discuss how our culture–and other cultures–deal with the elderly and dying. Many of Chast’s strong opinions and phobias can be traced back to her childhood in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. Roz, who lives in Connecticut, dreads visiting, for their home is a hoarder's paradise. How can that child deal with the guilt from having felt resentment for being put in the position of caretaker? *DIGITAL* Book Discussion: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Nor is she kind to herself, detailing with some vigour and not a little venom her ongoing rows with her parents (once a daughter, always a daughter). "Thank God, it turned out to be hard boiled.") (Bloomsbury, 2014), a National Book Award finalist and winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, Kirkus Prize, Reuben Award, and Books for a Better Life Award. When it becomes clear that her parents can’t go on living as they had been for decades, Chast begins the journey of moving them into an assisted living facility; the “massive, deeply weird, and heartbreaking job” of going through their possessions; and preparing for their long and expensive decline. Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s human interest and culture departments. The parents? How does Chast depict each place? And when it all gets too much, she will offer up one of her trademark skits, from the Wheel of Doom, a game based on the cautionary tales of her childhood, to an ad for Do Not Resuscitate merchandise. In the last section of the memoir, just before the epilogue, Chast shifts from comic-style drawings to crosshatched, realistic sketches of her mother’s last moments (p. 211). Should Your Book Club Read Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Whose experience is more frightening to you—George and Elizabeth’s, or Roz’s? How would you describe her style of humor? Reading Group Choices selects discussible books and suggests discussion topics for reading groups. “I didn’t write it for catharsis. He was a high school French and Spanish teacher who also spoke Italian and Yiddish and loved words and languages, but he couldn’t handle simple everyday tasks. You’ll want to talk about the relationship that Roz has with her mother and father. Articles, Interviews, and Reviews Drawn From Life. Hanna Rosin is the co-host of NPR’s Invisibilia and a founder of DoubleX. “We don’t deal with death in this society,” said Chast. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. Chast chronicles the complicated relationships she had with her parents with disarming honesty and unflinching candor. A former assistant principal in an elementary school, she was decisive, domineering, unafraid to make enemies, and prone to loud, angry outbursts she called “a blast from Chast,” especially toward her husband and daughter. “Gut-wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Chast’s memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, is a mix of four-color cartoons, family photos, sketches, found documents, and narrative storytelling that chronicles the conflicting emotions, memories, and practical challenges of her parents’ last years and passing. Does it affect how she deals with them as they age? How could that be? Searching is easy! Yes, that’s right. Now the tables have turned, but you can’t threaten to ground them if they don’t clean up their mess. Is this their sweet revenge for all those years you were a complete slob growing up? Podcast produced by Abdul Rufus and Andy Bowers. ©2020 Reading Group Choices. book club. Why or why not? Roz Chast, a cartoonist for the New Yorker, has written a memoir about her relationship with her elderly parents. Is she generous to her parents, especially when we consider how her mother treated her? Her lines, in both her words and drawings, are jittery “like a very old person’s voice” or a “polygraph having a nervous breakdown” (Boston Globe). Did your perceptions of George and Elizabeth as parents, spouses, and people in general change as the book went on? Your email 2019 The Slate Group LLC. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, written by Roz Chast, a longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker, is a “tour de force” (Elle), “remarkable” (San Francisco Chronicle), “revelatory” (Kirkus), “deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny” (New York Times), and “one of the great autobiographical memoirs of our time" (Buffalo News). 11. Or, if you ARE the parents, call your kids! It is often said that the act of writing, particularly a memoir, is an act of discovery. Roz Chast grew up in Brooklyn. Roz Chast’s graphic memoir features her parents in their final years and highlights the literary value and artistic merit in this growing medium. that featured the work of R. Crumb. “The mid-1970s was not a great time to be a cartoonist if you were at RISD. She has authored several books, including Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006 (Bloomsbury, 2006); the children’s books Too Busy Marco (Atheneum, 2010) and, in collaboration with the comedian Steve Martin, The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! Next month’s Audio Book Club selection is Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, a collection of essays about race, gender, relatable characters, and women who love Chris Brown. by Roz Chast. She graduated with a BFA in painting from RISD in 1977. Have you had a similar discussion with your parents and/or children about aging and long-term care plans? Do you think your place of residence influences you? It documents the author's experiences with her parents in their final years of life. Take it from someone who has lived a version of this book: if you don’t laugh along the way, you will do nothing but cry. How can a child deal with the resentment of being put in the position of caretaker? Fans of Roz Chast’s cartoons in The New Yorker will not be surprised to learn that her parents were an unlikely couple: Her mother, Elizabeth, was a bossy perfectionist. I picked this up because I had heard so much about it, and WOW, am I glad I did. But it's also hysterical: I mean wake-up-your-sleeping-husband hysterical. Do you think Elizabeth was a good mother? To what extent do you think Chast’s—and her parents’—anxieties drive the tone and direction of the book as it unfolds? 4. And yet, with Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? To listen to the Audio Book Club discussion of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, click the arrow on the player below. Did Chast’s use of humor surprise you? “Between their one-bad-thing-after-another lives and the Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust, in which they’d both lost family…who could blame them for not wanting to talk about death?” – Roz Chast in Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? I think many book clubs would enjoy talking about it. What if no one does? Please note: This event will be hosted on Zoom. It's also dead funny. 2/11 - 2/11. “I want to recommend it to everyone I know who has elderly parents, or might have them someday" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant. Chast tells us that her parents weren’t able to meaningfully connect with other residents at the assisted living facility in part because they had spent so much time alone with one another, isolated from the world at large (p. 131).