Roz Chast – Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir
Roz Chast’s memoir of caring for her very elderly parents during the final years of their lives is terrific. It’s existential drama with adorable drawings; it’s funny and discomfiting; it makes you wonder how you’ve made it to this point without a word like “postmortemistically” in your vocabulary. The dramas of the “sandwich generation,” of maimed relationships with one’s parents, of guilt and sadness, are not where this book breaks new ground. What takes one’s breath away about Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? is Chast’s willingness to include every detail of what it is like to watch mom and dad fall apart before one’s eyes, to bear witness as they reach and then drift beyond the point at which any words at all could change how you see them and they see you. It isn’t just about letting go of people or relationships; it’s about letting go of the fantasy of that one brilliant conversation, that one meaningful glance that would redeem the past and restore the unblemished love you always knew was hiding there for you—and then getting up the next day and going on anyway. This is a book about the inevitability—and messiness—of mortality that rejects all those bright-sided clichés about “life lessons,” closure, or redemption. (There isn’t any, Chast says; suck it up.) At the end of the book, the overwhelming emotion is gratitude: Thanks, Roz Chast, for saying what I always suspected was true and for saying that nobody gets it right. Perhaps paradoxically, Chast’s experience offers a kind of grown-up hope: It isn’t that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; it’s that what doesn’t kill us makes us.