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August 23, 2011

Feature Story: Roz Chast A to Z


Roz Chast is a woman of few words, but her hilarious comic images speak volumes. In her latest book, What I Hate: A to Z, the renowned New Yorker cartoonist details, alphabetically, the things that sometimes keep her up at night and other times get her mind to wandering—and that includes a bizarre Jell-O dessert incident that continues to haunt her to this day.

Jell-O? Really?
Jell-O per se isn't what bothered me. What I hated was opening the refrigerator and seeing that inexplicable spiderweb formation inside the dessert cups instead of pudding.
What inspired you to put a book of phobias together? Do you think of yourself as someone who is overly troubled by your fears?
As I said in the introduction, when I can't sleep, I play alphabet games. What do you mean by "overly troubled"? I get out of bed in the morning.
Are you surprised when you meet people who aren’t at all bothered by these fears, or who aren’t prone to thinking about them very much?
A little bit. They must have more important things on their minds.
You mention in the book that you attended an alien-abductee conference. What was it like?
It was amazing, very interesting. I was on assignment for a magazine called DoubleTake. Before I went, I thought: This piece will "write itself." That turned out not to be the case. Even though some of the people at the conference were, as I had expected, attention-seeking nutjobs, a couple of them seemed completely on the level. And once you think that, all bets are off.

Do  you find a lot of solidarity in our fears? That is, does the fact that we humans share so many of the same fears make you feel better about having any of them?
Better and worse.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Were there particular artists whose works inspired your own?
From the time I was four or five, I never really thought I would be able to do anything else. I find inspiration in so many artists' work. Charles Addams,  William Steig, Saul Steinberg,  Paul Klee, Gahan Wilson, Edward Gorey, John Held Jr., Don Martin, Ed Subitsky,  Robert Crumb, Alison Bechdel, Dan Clowes, Ernie Bushmiller, Mary Petty, Helen Hokinson..... oh, brother. I'm sure you're already bored. 
What are you working on next?
A graphic memoir about the last few years of my parents' lives.