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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  22,807 ratings  ·  3,635 reviews
#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 any
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  22,807 ratings  ·  3,635 reviews

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May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For years I have loved Roz Chast's cartoons in The New Yorker, which are a delightful mix of wordplay, schlumpy characters and anxious humor. (One of her clips about Errands is even on my bulletin board.) But this is the first Chast book I have read, and it was so personal and emotional and moving that it deserves the "amazing" five-star rating.

"Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" is a memoir about the last few years her elderly parents were alive, and how she handled their decline and
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Old age ain't no place for sissies." – Bette Davis

My grandparents celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. It was a festive, bittersweet occasion. My grandmother sat expressionless in her wheelchair, but for the mischievous glint of joy in her eyes. Now in the final stages of ALS, she's suddenly lost the ability to make facial expressions along with all forms of speech. We've been robbed of her beautiful smile.

My grandfather, late in life, has become a gentle, patient and lovi
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“Do you and Roz Chast have the same mother?” That’s what my husband asked me as I read some of the passages out loud to him.

Yes, we both grew up in Brooklyn and our mothers were both teachers. And yes, they each were hoarders and their trajectory followed erringly similar paths. But no, we are not sisters. It just so happens that New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast wrote a book that any Boomer with parents who have reached advanced old age can relate to. She captures the journey with precision and
Lots of pictures at my site:

Don’t be misled; cartoons don’t make for easy reading. Roz Chast takes an unflinching look at her interactions with her aging parents in their very, very ‘golden years,’ and discovers there’s a lot that makes everyone uncomfortable. You know what happens? We get old. We get frail. And somehow, we’ve all forgotten this, from the 90 year-olds who insist on living alone, to the baby boomers who insist on believing their parents ar
Elyse Walters
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing

This is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (as in TOP 10 favorite books)

Its Brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've procrastinated long enough in writing a review. I keep returning to the book ---[thinking, reading, touching it...and wanting MORE].

I've already read it TWICE ---(more than twice if you count the 'extra' times --I've read specific pages over and over).

The first time I read it alone. I kept being blown away by the mag
OMG fantastic!!! Wish I could give this book more than 5 stars! I sort of want to be a pushy bitch and talk everyone into reading this terrific graphic novel!

I always swore I would never read a graphic novel (which goes to show, never say never). I’m a word person. I don’t do pictures. I especially don’t like cartoons. I can work in an office for years and suddenly notice a huge piece of art that’s been hanging on the wall for a decade. I hear words, but I often don’t see the writing on the wall
Paul Bryant
Here I am with the 94th 5 star rating for this book on Goodreads. The postman brought me it this very morning but I had to finish the Joyce book first. I had one of those great Saturdays where I DIDN'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING, it's like my reward for being good or something, so all I did was finish one book, start AND finish another, and start to watch a really stupid movie for which life is too short.

This book is about dealing with the last few years of your very very old and more than somewhat dif
Glenn Sumi
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing

I’ve always been a big fan of Roz Chast’s New Yorker cartoons – featuring irritable-looking characters and savage social satire – and even own a couple of her early collections. But nothing prepared me for the power and emotional resonance of her graphic memoir about taking care of her parents as their health declines in their 90s.

Chast, an only child whose parents were always older than her friends’, has mixed feelings about them, especially her mother, a retired assistant principal who bullied
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Carmen by: Book Store
UPDATE 06/21/2018
I am bumping this up from three stars to five stars after a second reading. Chast actually does an amazing job here. The book is poignant but also funny. Everyone will have to go through taking care of an elderly loved one at some point, so the book is universal and will let a lot of people know that they aren't alone.

If you are fresh off the death of a parent(grandparent/spouse), this might be too painful to read. Fair warning.

The painful realization that your father no long
Sam Quixote
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Roz Chast relates the story of her 93 year old parents’ final years in her excellent comics memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I’ve seen this book on shelves for years now and every time I’ve looked at it I’ve thought that I’ll probably like reading it but never picked it up because I thought it’d be a downer; I was right - I loved it! - but I was wrong in thinking it’d be depressing. It is in a way - how could the story of two elderly people slowly dying not be? - but the book
(Nearly 4.5) Memoir + graphic novel = graphic memoir. This one’s about her parents’ aging, senility and death yet still manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. It also includes photos of her parents’ apartment filled with ancient belongings they’d hoarded and a touching series of sketches she made of her mother while she was dying. This and Fun Home are the two best graphic memoirs I’ve read.

Some favorite lines:

Dealing with her father’s obsession with their finances: “Instead of screaming at him,
Peer support.

That is the most simplistic way I can describe this fairly interesting cartoon look at the time when a person realizes his or hers parents aren't getting any younger but older, and with older age there hardly ever comes anything that would not require a child to step in and start to take care of his or hers parents personal business... also known as life.

That journey can be as much joyful than it can be devastating, it is a roller coaster of emotions, positive and negative, it is a
Deborah Markus
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
For as far back as I can remember, I felt far outside my parents' duo. There were many times, from when I was a little girl until just a couple of weeks ago, that I was sure I was adopted. ...Adoptees or not, they were my one and only set of parents, and now they are gone, a fact that feels indescribably strange, even four and six years after their deaths.

This is the story of the end of three lives: Roz Chast's mother, her father, and her hope that either of them can be the parents she needs. Th
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-5-star
Roz Chast writes a memoir of taking care of her elderly parents, from independent living to assisted living to death. She tells it in passages, photographs and cartoons. Roz handles the stress with love and humor. The part that helped me the most is cleaning out her parents's apartment, because we (my husband and me) are dealing with a similar situation. This is an excellent book for helping the reader to cope with taking care of elderly parents. It can extend to taking care of grandparents too. ...more
To a culture that is generally fraught with fear of and disdain for aging and avoidant when it comes to talking about death, Roz Chast has here given the wonderful gift of being exceedingly honest, open, and frank in disclosing her experience of her parents' deaths and the preceding years she spent as their caregiver while they were suffering various and sundry sorts of challenging physical and mental decline.

As a social worker who used to work in a medical setting with seniors, I observed so ma
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
A book is the experience of the reader. I very much wanted to read Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? after hearing several good reviews and an interview with the author. My perception of it from what I heard was that it was a memoir about Roz Chast's elderly parents and her struggle to prepare for their death and getting to a point of honest conversation with them about this inevitability.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a graphic memoir, the perfect vehicle for Chast'
Clif Hostetler
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is a graphic memoir of an only child’s experience trying to monitor the welfare of her aging parents during their final years of failing health. Her parents reached their 90s blessed with impressive good health, but then things began to go wrong, which was complicated because her mother refused help. Her mother was hospitalized with an infection during which time her muscle strength was diminished because of the extended bed rest. This resulted in a series of falls after leaving the hospita ...more
David Schaafsma
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gn-women, gn-memoir
Anyone in New York or who reads The New Yorker knows Roz Chast and her cartoons. She's hilarious and insightful and makes you smile. She's also Jewish, and makes fun of her own and her family's idiosyncrasies. In this graphic memoir she deals with what a lot of people have to deal with, the dying and deaths of her parents, who died at 97. In a way it is sort of just straightforward, what we all must go through, and part of it is a reflection on her mean mom and nutso dad and her awkward life wit ...more
Jan Rice
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
(Originally reviewed on July 6, 2015.)

I could see that they were slowly leaving the sphere of TV-commercial old age--

∙Totally independent!!
∙Just like a normal adult, but with SILVER HAIR!!!

--and moving into the part of old age that was scarier, hard to talk about, and not a part of this culture.
(my italics) (p. 20)

This memoir is about decline and death: about the author's assuming the care of her parents and the role reversal that ensued. ...Or, in her case, perhaps "role reversal" doesn
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
One thing that bothered me about this memoir is the way that it continuously shows the author entirely alone with her parents. We are told that the author has a husband and children but they are absent. She seems to have for herself no helpful support system. Her self-revelation clearly falters when she fails to tell us why a married mother is nevertheless so isolated.

She had a difficult relationship with her overbearing mother, who dominated her and her father. She felt close to him; he was a s
One imagines the word “cartoonist” should be paired with “funny,” and certainly I am accustomed to think “funny” when hearing the name Roz Chast. But not any more. The only thing I thought was funny enough to laugh at in this book-length cartoon about the decline of her parents was the part she did not draw out: the photographs of her parents’ apartment after they left it one day for a ‘trial run’ at an assisted living facility. For some reason, the 1950’s vintage ammonia inhalants placed promin ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to many GR friends for putting Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant on my radar. 4 1/2 stars. Lesson learned: Getting really old really sucks, and having really old parents can suck too. But Roz Chast teaches this lesson so eloquently through her illustrated book depicting her own parents' last few years when they were in their 90s that this is much more than a long whine about very old age. The strong and idiosyncratic love between her parents and her own complicated love for h ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Gotta admit: despite the cavalcade of 4 and 5 star reviews from my GR friends, I was not looking forward to reading this, primarily because Roz Chast's New Yorker cartoons make me a little seasick. Her Dr. Katz-ish illustrations, her chicken-scratch cursive, her droll, occasionally snooty sense of humor (almost the the polar opposite of my own) left me quite dubious that I'd find any enjoyment from an illustrated memoir focusing on her aging parents.

I succumbed to curiosity, and glad I did. Ms.
I’ll start off by saying that if I could, I would get this as a gift for almost all my friends, and even strangers also. Alas, my budget doesn't allow for that.
This is a spectacular graphic memoir by a New York cartoonist telling the story of taking care of her aging parents. It made me laugh and it also brought tears to my eyes. She’s quite blunt throughout, but also very sensitive. One of my favorite pages is when she describes what happens to most when they get to be truly old: “Once you pas
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2015
An absolute gem - do *NOT* pass this up, especially if you are in a situation where you have aging parent considerations.

Honest, bittersweet and heartrending. The sketches at the end will move you to tears.

Betsy Robinson
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing

What a wonderful book. Especially for people who had less than idyllic (heavy sarcasm) childhoods. I loved it!
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you are of a certain age (getting old) and your parent(s) are of a more uncertain age (gotten there), New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's memoir of her parents' final years will strike a chord.

Some of her experiences are specific to her and the personalities of her mom and dad, but many of them are common to all of us. And I don't mean just our parents in their 80s or 90s, I mean us, too, for the writing is on the wall. We all say we don't want to be kept alive, but when you get there, no one'
Chast's tale of the last few years in her parents' lives is both hilarious and heartbreaking. She touches on the emotional toll - the bone-wearying work and worry involved in caring for the elderly, AND the astronomical costs that can be incurred - sometimes up to $14,000 a month!

There are thousands of reviews of this book, so read them if you want.
Better yet, READ THIS BOOK!

I'm including this one little anecdote because it made me laugh, and I want to remember it.

When Chast finds out that he
Laura Leaney
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although I currently have a subscription to The New Yorker, I usually get through one article and only sometimes read the fiction. I just can't keep up, so I put Post-It notes on the copies that I want to go back to read. I have a giant stack, like some kind of weird hoarder of New Yorkers. But I always read the cartoons. Sometimes I cut them out and keep them as bookmarks, and Roz Chast's cartoons are inevitably funny and angst-y, cutting to the point about human foibles and failings.

This book
Roger Brunyate
The Truth Behind the Cartoons

A typical Roz Chast cartoon, such as you might see in the New Yorker: a group of savings bank advertisements from the fifties, offering rewards for new depositors. But this is not the humorist's imagination; these are real giveaways found in her parents' apartment after she had finally moved them to an assisted living facility. And there were bundles of bankbooks to go with them, treasures that had to be hidden from disguised Nazis who would break in and steal them.

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Rosalind "Roz" Chast is an American cartoonist and a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker. She grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, the only child of an assistant principal and a high school teacher. Her earliest cartoons were published in Christopher Street and The Village Voice. In 1978 The New Yorker accepted one of her cartoons and has since published more than 800. She also publishes c ...more
“I gave up on ever trying to get 'my way.' I barely knew it existed.” 9 likes
“It's no accident that most ads are pitched to people in their 20s and 30s. Not only are they so much cuter than their elders...but they are less likely to have gone through the transformative process of cleaning out their deceased parents' stuff. Once you go through that, you can never look at *your* stuff in the same way. You start to look at your stuff a little postmortemistically. If you've lived more than two decades as an adult consumer, you probably have quite the accumulation, even if you're not a hoarder...I'm not saying I never buy stuff, because I absolutely do. Maybe I'm less naive about the joys of accumulation.” 7 likes
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