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PORTRAIT OF DECLINE


A combination of heartbreak, the unvarnished truth, and humor make Roz Chast’s graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, a compelling read for anyone facing the health decline of an aging loved one.

 

The New Yorker cartoonist uses her formidable skills to deliver an unflinching look at what that decline really looks like, along with the effect that it all has on the caretaker-child.

 

Cartoons, drawings, and text convey the guilt, exhaustion, chronic dread, heartbreak, and the hemorrhaging of money associated with caretaking and when adult kids become their parents’ parent.

 

Interspersed with the depictions of the indignities of extreme old age is a biting, dark humor.

 

Much of that stems from the chaos Chast faces in her parents’ overstuffed Brooklyn apartment.

 

There’s the “crazy closet.” It’s jammed with everything from tattered clothing and unusable record players, to ancient luggage and 40-year-old blankets.

 

Chast discovers a drawer full of old metal jar lids. She photographs what she names her dad’s Museum of old Schick shavers. 

 

And, like so many kids, Chast had neither the energy nor the desire to sift through the stuff.  Eventually, she turns to the building’s super and asks him to take care of – dump -- virtually everything. 

 

The book imparts numerous lessons. One critical takeaway: Don’t do this to your children.

Listen to an interview with Chast at http://www.npr.org/2014/05/08/310725572/a-cartoonists-funny-heartbreaking-take-on-caring-for-aging-parents