If you don't like Roz Chast's wobbly line and wry sense of humor, there's nothing in her new memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? that will change your mind. But if you don't like Roz Chast, you're basically hopeless: Chast's cartoons are lively and smart and packed with a self-aware energy. And Pleasant is the best thing I've ever seen from her.
Pleasant is a memoir by a daughter who found herself in the difficult position of caretaking for her elderly parents as they aged into infirmity, and Chast's confessions feel brutally honest. She loves her parents, but they're so stuck in their ways that the age barrier might as well be a language barrier. She gets exasperated with them, she gets outright angry at them, and at times she doesn't check on them until the guilt becomes too great to bear.
Chast tells the story with a blend of her traditional cartoons, long handwritten passages, and photographs and keepsakes from her youth. Though the story she tells is inexorably aimed toward dying and death, she makes room for levity throughout. I've never read a memoir quite like this. The story of Chast's parents is becoming more and more common as science gets better and better at deferring death, but I've never seen anyone approach the process of death with this level of candor, or humor, or charm. It's heavy material handled lightly, and with the confidential tone of a friend talking over coffee.