Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Unscientific Americans collects 126 cartoons and short strips originally published in magazines including the New Yorker and National Lampoon. Roz Chast’s style of applying lateral thinking to everyday expressions and social situations generates a chatty, discursive style of storytelling and shaggy dog jokes. It lends itself to lists of escalating ridiculousness, as in a three-panel strip that simply presents three ordinary looking girls, looking out at the reader with mildly preoccupied expressions. What do they have in common? First is ‘The girl who wished she was from Ipanema’, second is ‘The girl who used to be from Ipanema’, and the last is ‘The girl whose best pal is from Ipanema’.
‘Cinderella – where are they now?’ brings us up-to-date on the characters from that fairytale. Cinderella wears a two-piece Chanel suit. Her current status: “Divorced Prince, married to Count von Helsinki, lives in Geneva, Switzerland.” As for The Prince: “After divorce, lost much of fortune in Monte Carlo, but made gains through development of own line of perfume.” Her Stepmother: “After truce with Cinderella, opened a chain of family restaurants in Florida.” This is a lovely collection of wry musings, very easy to read in large chunks at a time. The longer, more wordy ideas such as a therapist’s questionnaire filled out by Minnie Mouse (see sample page) are interspersed with little silly observations such as ’Just Desserts’ which is items of food that can see both sides of the situation and remain impartial. An ice cream cone with a scoop of vanilla on top says “Fair is fair!” A piece of pie exclaims “You’re both right!” And an apple sagely informs us “The truth is never black or white.”
This book is out of print, but most of the work selected here has been reprinted in Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006.