The Art of Growing Older

Book Review: Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir Roz Chast

Roz-Chast-Bookcover

I put off reading this book for a long time. Sure, it was a 2014 National Book award finalist and I had read many gushing reviews. But graphic novels are not one of my favorite genres, and memoirs are. I was skeptical of the concept of a graphic memoir about aging.

Yet I found Chast’s memoir to be substantive, honest, deeply moving and scathingly funny. A New Yorker cartoonist, Chast brings to bear her skills of incisive observation and wit to portray her ideas compactly. She engages the reader in the relatable story of people who we come to know in ways that are both universal and instructive, in keeping with some of the best traditions of memoir. 

Through delightful and expressive drawings combined with handwritten passages, Chast writes about her upbringing - but mostly the period of her parents’ decline. It was surprisingly hilarious, painfully poignant and at times, even oddly uplifting.  In a word, it is full of contradictions - not unlike the life passage it depicts. 

A book I was reluctant to read, but basically inhaled and now find myself recommending to all my friends.

First Thoughts

  The Art of Growing Older

TheFavorite

 After nourishment, shelter and companionship,

stories are the thing we need most in the world.

~Philip Pullman

 

Much of our culture surrounding issues of aging is devoted to denial of it.  Eternal youth is packaged and promoted in many forms- miracle foods, miracle creams, miracle pills, miracle claims…60 is the new 50. Our emphasis is on anti-aging.

Anti-aging. Now there's an oxymoron. Aging (according to American English dictionary) is the process of becoming older. When that process ceases we are no longer alive.

But, in a culture that medicalizes the natural process of aging as a disease process, the term anti-aging becomes the vocabulary for the myriad of cures with which we seek to arrest, reverse and eradicate that process. We have an extraordinary aversion to aging. In media and business cultures enthralled with youth, aging is waning power. Rather than seeing experience, wisdom and beauty, we are trained to see weakness, irrelevance and ugliness.

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