Roz Chast’s ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?’

Loved Roz Chast’s book, surprised myself by loving it actually. Here is an excerpt from my luxuriously long review of the book for the Sydney Review of Books:

Chast is giving over a whole multi-tracked, multi-voiced, sensory feast of a book to something – something barely bearable sometimes, and infused with pain and dread always; something that gets sprinted past, or poeticised to within an inch of its life, or else chronicled with a deadly, breathless earnestness (in these matters earnestness can be deadly) – and she does it in such a way that I could not tear myself away from her book.
Why? How? Art Spiegelman said comics are the art ‘of turning time back into space’. Mark Twain said humour equals ‘tragedy plus time’. It must be some alchemic melding of the two. Chast lays down her parents’ final years, page after page, panel after unexpected panel, and the spatialisation of that extraterrestrial-seeming timeless time is part of the book’s magic, together with the gaps and cracks opened up between the verbal and visual tracks, the constant little fireworks set off by words and images rubbing against each other, riffs, deepenings, silences, gliding rhythmic shifts – and humour too, the sort that brings us closer than pathos or stripped-back somber witnessing can to the tragedy of a human’s protracted, anguished decline. Then there is the way the form itself allows Chast to slide hither and thither, as if on a well-oiled flying fox: side to side between different emotional and narrative registers; up, down and around through time.