Truth-telling and story above all else

January 9, 2020 | Paul Richardson

When cartoonist Roz Chast was “told casually,” in a recent New Yorker article, “that she has a novelist’s sensibility, she asked, warily, what that might be. ‘Truth-telling and story above all else,’ a friend explains. She accedes enthusiastically, in abruptly bitten-off words. ‘Oh. Yeah. Absolutely. That.’
 
Exactly, truth-telling. And good observational humor.

As the incident described in the opener to the article, when, at a Turkish restaurant where the waiters wear shirts blazoned with the restaurant’s name, Chast asks, “Why would we need to know its name?” she wonders. “We’re already inside.”

Roz Chast goes through the world with the eyes of a cartoonist, of a graphic storyteller who is constantly identifying and lampooning the ever anxious and self-conscious American middle class. As Adam Gopnik writes (in the cited New Yorker article – read it, it is wonderful):


“She has created a universe that stands at sharp angles from the one we know, being both distinctly hers and recognizably ours.”

 

A Roz Chast New Yorker CoverRaised in Flatbush by schoolteachers who were remarkable for their phobias (so much so that Chast chose to immortalize them in her 2014 graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant), Chast sought solace and fulfillment in her art. She says she just couldn’t wait to grow up: “Being a child was just not working for me…”
 
Art was her escape, and she left home at 16, soon attending the Rhode Island School of Design. She then returned to New York and started having her cartoons published, eventually landing at the New Yorker.
 
“I think it was a Wednesday,” she recalls. “I called up and found their drop-off day, and I left my portfolio. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since. I was absolutely flabbergasted and terrified when I found out I had sold something.”
 
Chast has been treating the world to her offbeat, confessional, insightful cartoons for over 40 years, and she will join us in Boca for a night talking about her life and work. Join us, won’t you?

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