Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reader's Diary #1128- Roz Chast: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Perhaps it's my inner-Canadian (i.e., not American, not British) that's making me want to begin by stating what Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is not.

It is not funny. Sure Chast might be best known for her humorous New Yorker cartoon, but just as I said about Something Fierce a week ago, readers going into Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? expecting a roll on the floor are in for a rude awakening. Do book reviewers not get comedy? There are funny moments, for sure, and I did even LOL once. I'm not saying it needs to be a book of knock knock jokes in order to have the funny label, but I do think that the number one intent of a funny book should be to make people laugh and I do not think that was Chast's intent with this book. I think it was her intent to write an honest depiction of dealing with the aging process and death of one's parents, to talk about an unpleasant side of life. But because it's honest, and observant, of course there are humorous momentsthere are such moments in real life but I don't think they're the focus of this book, they're incidental. Well, maybe not incidental. I think she is making a point that it's okay to occasionally laugh during tough times, but let's be real, the focus here is on the tough times.

It is also not a great graphic novel. To me, a great graphic novel is a complete package: good story, good art, and they are only great together. Chast's art is serviceable, but not stellar (excluding the drawings of her mother at the very end which were stellar and reminded me of Ron Mueck's "Dead Dad" sculpture). Furthermore, it works more like the art of a picture book, tending to compliment the text but the text could work on its own. And to be sure, the text of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? works superbly which brings me to what it is: an occasionally funny, but always honest and poignant memoir that happens to be illustrated.

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