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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Cartoonist Roz Chast speaks at ODU

Daija Marrow | Contributing Writer


Roz Chast graced the stage as the final guest on the last day of the Lust for Life literary festival. At 7:25 p.m., the Blue Room of the Ted Constant Center buzzed with anticipation. A lively crowd, ranging from students to alumni, eagerly awaited the arrival of the renowned New Yorker cartoonist. Some were required to attend for class credit while others heard of the lecture weeks prior through newspaper advertisements.

“I have been looking forward to this chat for days. Her work is hilarious,” an ODU Alumnus said. “My favorite of her works is ‘Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant?’ I even brought it to be signed.”

Chast’s spotlight presence was immediately uplifting. She began her chat by casually describing her personal life in the company of comic strips that she’d drawn. Her target audience appears to be elders with themes revolving around age, marriage and work. Still, Chast drew laughter from everyone in the crowd.

She stated that she has no idea where her ideas come from but the answer becomes obvious the more she speaks. Chast openly talks about life with her parents in New York before her transition to a more suburban area.

Chast is near famous in the literary world for her accomplishments, but when she speaks, she addresses she audience as if they are close friends. Her tone and demeanor reach the crowd on a personal level and her experiences are strongly relatable.  

Chast’s sense of humor shines through her dialogue as she displayed her creative processes in front of the crowd. She gives inanimate objects personalities, hearts, and minds. In that instance, a graphic comedy is created.

She explained that the comic industry is competitive. Out of approximately 7,000 submissions for the magazine, only 15-20 will be chosen by the editor to be featured in that week’s magazine. Chast is regularly chosen and has had her work on the cover of the Magazine, but the job is still a challenge. She excels over the difficulties because she loves what she does and has loved it for more than 40 years. “If this is something you want to do, go for it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you your work sucks. Stick to your guns,” Chast advised those with a passion for the creative arts.

Through her actions, she teaches aspiring writers and artists that it’s important to stick to what you enjoy. She shared a story of how she submitted to Playboy magazine and they asked her to appeal more to their target crowd. She did just that while throwing her comedic spin on the sexy Playboy theme.

“I didn’t anticipate how much an artist has to do in order to succeed,” voiced a music performance major. “I hadn’t known about her before tonight, but now I’m going to recommend her to everyone I know.”

Chast’s lecture not only emphasized her books and comics, but magnified her personality and ambitions. It was her openness regarding her content and ability to make those around her smile that kept her listeners interested. She provided advice to those pursuant of liberal arts careers and even gave a peek into her personal life.

“I was delighted to see that she enjoys other things such as embroidery and pysanky eggs,” graduate creative writing professor, Janet Perry, said following the event. Perry was one of the attendees that who understood Chast’s struggles as a creative writer and appreciated hearing about her activities in her free time.

All evening Chast explained that being a comic artist takes a lot of time and dedication. That fact requires a balance of work and leisure. On that note, the crowd lined up to purchase her latest book, receive signatures and make friendly conversation with the talented cartoonist.