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Critics select 'Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?' for best-of-the-year lists

'Pleasant' is a graphic novel by Roz Chast that explores caring for aging parents.

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    'Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?' is by Roz Chast.
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Roz Chast’s illustrated memoir about taking care of elderly parents received critical praise upon its release and was nominated for a National Book Award. Now it’s finding a place on many best-of-the-year lists.

Chast’s book “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” was released this past May. Upon its publication, many critics were impressed by it, with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal all giving it starred reviews. “Poignant and funny,” PW wrote. “She brings her parents and herself to life in the form of her characteristic scratchy-lined, emotionally expressive characters, making the story both more personal and universal. Despite the subject matter, the book is frequently hilarious… this is a cartoon memoir to laugh and cry, and heal, with – Roz Chast’s masterpiece.”

Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times also received it positively, writing that the author “[writes] with a new depth and amplitude of emotion… by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny… Ms. Chast reminds us how deftly the graphic novel can capture ordinary crises in ordinary American lives, how a mixture of cartoons and photographs and text can create a family portrait with all the intimacy and emotional power of a conventional prose memoir.” 

“Pleasant” was then nominated for a National Book Award in the nonfiction category this year. According to the NBA, Chast is the first cartoonist to be selected for an adult category (graphic novels had been nominated in the young people’s literature category before). 

And now “Pleasant” is being brought up again as reviewers compile their best-of-the-year lists. NPR critic Maureen Corrigan chose it for her list, writing that the book is “the most profound meditation yet written on the trials of caring for aging parents… Chast's memoir is a masterpiece… Brava!” The New York Times also chose “Pleasant” for its best-of list, with the books section editors writing that the work is “devastating and sublime… No one has perfect parents, and no one can write a perfect book about them. But Chast has come close.” And Entertainment Weekly also selected “Pleasant” for its list of best 2014 nonfiction titles. “You wouldn't expect a book about dealing with elderly parents to be hysterically funny, but this one… certainly is,” EW critic Tina Jordan wrote.

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