November 20, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
In 2014, Roz Chast published Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir about her aging parents and her raw, dark feelings about being a caregiver. My father had been recently diagnosed with dementia; I had been tasked with taking him to get his driving assessed, an appointment that ended with a revoked license. To read Chast’s comic take on similarly depressing and taxing situations — she riffs on everything from Meals on Wheels to Depends — gave me permission to admit to feeling overwhelmed and resentful. When I turned to a cartoon showing the Grim Reaper sitting in the living room of an old folks’ home, I laughed so hard I called my sister.
“You. laugh laugh laugh Have to. laugh laugh laugh. Read this. laugh laugh laugh,” I choked into the phone. If you’ve ever cared for someone who has made it past 80, you know there are moments that are so tragic and absurd your only option is to crack up.
I’ve loved Chast’s cartoons since 1984, when I moved to New York City to go to college. I was from Minneapolis and knew nothing of the customs of Manhattan. So I subscribed to The New Yorker, figuring it would give me the cultural cues I needed by pointing me to a Godard film at the Thalia or the best Chinese- Cuban restaurant in Morningside Heights. But the truth was that the New York depicted in the features and reviews was so far removed from my daily reality that I always felt the stab of nose-pressed-up-against-the-glass envy. I was from a place that bragged about having the first enclosed shopping mall.
Which is why my favorite feature in any issue of The New Yorker was the occasional cartoon by Chast, whose deceptively casual freehand drawings often focused on interiors and the people who occupied them. There were lumpy couches, rotary phones, tables set with unappealing meals. Chast was a decade older than I was — she published her first cartoon in The New Yorker in 1978 — and the world that she depicted was quirky, awkward, neurotic and female. Her characters weren’t wealthy or sitting in board rooms. They couldn’t afford fancy restaurants or summer shares at the beach. One cartoon, called, “More Hamptons” was a riff on the weekend options for a young person with no money or real estate-endowed pals. There was Tubhampton, Roofhampton, and — my favorite — Fanhampton, which showed a skinny guy slumped in front of a fan, sipping an umbrella drink.
I recognized myself in Chast’s cartoons — and I still do.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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