The fail-to-thrive characters of Roz Chast’s cartoons have been cracking people up since 1978 when the New Yorker started publishing her work. The Celebrity Series of Boston brings the cartoonist to town Friday for an 8 p.m. appearance at Sanders Theater. Tickets are $30 to $65.
BOOKS: What kind of books do you like to read?
CHAST: I mainly like fiction. Maybe one out of 50 books I read is nonfiction.
BOOKS: Do you have favorite authors?
CHAST: I love Alice Munro. I’m really liking George Saunders. I loved his recent story in the New Yorker. I like Gary Shteyngart, Paul Bowles, Ian Frazier.
BOOKS: Would you say you have wide-ranging taste?
CHAST: Very. I like the old, new. I just love when I’m deeply involved with a book. It’s like a drug. I get anxious when I’m reaching the end of a book because I’m running out of the drug. That is why I keep a stash of books to read next. I don’t want to be essentially smoking the butt end of cigarettes in the ashtray.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
Chast: I’m reading “Arcadia” by Lauren Groff. I like it much more than I thought I would at the beginning. I have an iPad, which makes it hideously easy to buy books, especially at 2 or 3 a.m. when your resistance is down. When “Arcadia” came I thought, “Why would I read this?” But now I’m loving it.
BOOKS: Do you know what you will read next?
CHAST: No, but today I just got “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel. So many different people have told me to read it. I’m usually daunted by history-type books, books in which people will be using words like “thy” or “credenza.”
BOOKS: Are there any other kind of books you avoid?
CHAST: I don’t like fantasy books. Once there’s a wizard in it I’m done. I started reading a Harry Potter book to my daughter when she was 10 or 11. At some point we both admitted we were bored by it.
BOOKS: How long have you been a voracious fiction reader?
CHAST: Since I was a kid. Being an only child, I was left by myself a lot. My parents were older and busy. We lived in an apartment. It wasn’t like I could put up a basketball hoop, and you couldn’t make a lot of noise.
BOOKS: What are some books that you loved as a kid?
CHAST: “The Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum. The first grown-up book I ever read was Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which I loved, but all the courtroom stuff bored me silly. I was 9.
BOOKS: Do you collect cartoon books?
CHAST: I have a small library of cartoon collections, mostly old New Yorker people like Carl Rose and Whitney Darrow. I have all the old Charles Addams books. “Drawn and Quartered” was major for me when I was a kid.
BOOKS: How did you discover him?
CHAST: My parents went to Ithaca to take summer courses at Cornell University. They would park me in a reading library. There was a section there that was just cartoon books. I discovered his books, like “Monster Rally,” there. I remember laughing so hard I thought I would have an accident.
BOOKS: When do you tend to read?
CHAST: It depends on how busy the day gets and how involved I am in a book. Today I’ll put some time aside to read in the afternoon, but mostly I read at night.
BOOKS: Aren’t you a night owl?
CHAST: Yes. Last night I was up until 3 a.m. reading “Arcadia.” I made myself go to bed. Once you’re up until 3, if you don’t make yourself go to bed you could easily be up until 4 reading. Something happens. You get a second wind. I’ll think, “It’s 2:30. Why not stay up until 5:30 reading?”
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