Cartoonist Roz Chast on Manhattan: ‘I feel more alive when I’m there’

Ros Chast (Photo: Amy Ta)

Part of the pleasure of reading Roz Chast’s cartoons in the New Yorker is realizing your life isn’t so miserable after all. Her characters live in a world filled with petty disappointments. Her books have titles like “What I Hate: From A to Z,” and “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

But her new book is a celebration of her favorite place: “Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York.”

The book started as a guide for her daughter who was raised in Connecticut and bound for college in Manhattan. “I made her this little guide booklet that she could take around with her that had this general layout of New York, and lots of drawings, and cartoons, and funny stuff about eating in diners and whatever. Tips to get around,” Chast told Press Play.

After four years with the booklet, Chast’s daughter told her that it was very helpful. So Chast decided to turn it into a bigger version she could publish. In doing so, her love for the city ended up pouring out.

Manhattan was the glittering escape from her dreary upbringing in Brooklyn. “I guess the upper west side, for me, was really the neighborhood that felt like home. It was also very multigenerational. And it’s definitely not just rich people.”

She described Brooklyn as “shabby and depressing, and a place of extremely limited horizons. And if you had any sort of dreams of any other kind of life other than something that was very dreary, it’s like well we’re just gonna knock that out of you.”

When reflecting on life in New York, Chast referenced E.B. White, who wrote, “It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”

White also observed three New Yorks that co-existed. Chast said she felt like she belonged in all of them.