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Cartoonist Roz Chast Discusses Her Book "Going Into Town"

Brooklyn native Roz Chast has been publishing cartoons in The New Yorker since 1978. She moved to the suburbs to start her family, and when her daughter decided to go to college in the city, Roz found out that she lacked some basic knowledge - like what a block is. Roz created an illustrated guide for her daughter, which became her latest book, "Going Into Town: A Love Letter To New York."

AIRED: March 08, 2018 | 0:07:43

Hi I'm Maddie Orton and

this is author imprint.

It's not uncommon for a

parent to give their

college bound kid some

words of advice as they

head out on their own.

But when that parent is

New York Times best

selling author and New

Yorker cartoonist Roz

Chast a few nuggets of

wisdom can be spun into an

entire graphic novel.

Such is the case with

"Going into Town a Love

Letter to New York." Chast

writes and illustrates

nine chapters on things

every newbie New Yorker

should know from what a

cross street is to why you

probably shouldn't sit in

that empty subway car.

Roz thank you so much for

being here.

Thank you for having me.

So Tell me a little bit

about why you wrote this

in the first place.

Well the initial idea for

the book started when my

daughter was about to go

off to college.

And I grew up in New York,

I grew up in Brooklyn and

then lived a lot of my

adult life in Manhattan

and had children and we

moved out to...

had two kids moved out to

Connecticut so my kids

basically grew up in the


About an hour and change

outside of New York.

My daughter decided to go

to school in Manhattan and

before she went off to

college she - I decided to

check up on her sense of

just logistics,

like how much- she'd been

into the city with me many

many times (Sure) but I

just didn't know how much

she understood about the


So I sat down with her and

I said "Well you know New

York is laid out like a


It's very hard to get

lost" and she said "What

do you mean." So I got

piece of paper and I'm

saying "OK these are the

avenues these are the

streets." So if you want

to walk from like 52nd

street to Fifty sixth


you walk uptown four


And she actually said to

me what's a block.

Oh my gosh.

And I thought well we have

some work to do here.

So I made her this booklet

which really was it was

just this little pamphlet

she could keep in her back

pocket maybe 16 pages.

Things like what a block

was what a cross street

was why you needed to know

these things.

The general lay out,

and a few other tips and

it was all illustrated and

I gave it to her.

And at the end of four

years she gave it back to

me and it was all worn and

bent and stuff and she

said mom this was really

helpful thank you so much.

I used it and my friends

used it and...

And I thought "well maybe

there's a book here." You

know I don't know.

It started out actually it

was going to be just an

expansion of a guidebook.

But as I was writing it I

felt like that's not


I want there to be...

It's also sort of a love

letter and also a thank

you to Manhattan because I

feel like for so many


you know just intensely

intensely grateful to this

particular place.

What do you mean by that.


You know there's this sort

of very corny song about

like New York New York if

you could make it there

you make it anywhere (yea

sure) I felt the opposite.

I feel like I felt like.

This is the only place on

earth that I can I could

make a living,

you know because I knew I

mean I wanted to be a


And I didn't see back in

'77 when I got out of

college '78 where else I

could live to be a

cartoonist and I feel like

New York offers a lot of

opportunities for people

who really don't fit in

anywhere else.


You know.

So it's kind of the

inverse of that song.

It's like if you can't

make it anywhere else,

then you can make it here


You can tell you know from

the way that you talk

about New York in this

that what you really do

love the city.

I really love the city.

It's really uh- it's so


It's it's very unique.

I mean all cities I love

cities in general.

But I think one thing

about New York is its just

its geography that it is

an island,

it's very compressed.

And there is a certain

density and energy here

that I have never found

anywhere else.

You draw a lot of

inspiration from sort of

just the crazy scene of

New York and some of them

are you know the more

obvious things that I

think a lot of people are

inspired by,

and then some of them are

stunning: standpipes of

all things.

(Oh yea) I think it's


How do you find those

pieces in New York or do

they just pop out at you?

They pop out.

I mean I'll be walking

down the street and I know

there's a standpipe in

there with like 8 arms or

something or 12 some

insane number.

And when I saw it it was

just walking down the


I was not looking for

standpipes and when I saw

this I was like why are we

not all falling on our

knees and worshipping this

obvious like god of

standpipes you know this

is so crazy looking.

And it just almost made me


You know but I've just

noticed - it's too bad.

No you can't add pages in

the book because I've seen

such crazy ones you know

since then.

But it's just it's just

the kind of...

when I'm here I feel very

aware of my surroundings

in a way that I don't

feel-- it pulls me out of

myself in a good way.

So how challenging is it

for you to compile a book

like this.

It probably took about two

and a half years because

there were parts that just

you know get into too much


And then also I felt like

well how much history do I


how much background where

I felt like I'm not

writing a history book.

There are lots of people

that write history books

and once you get into that

it's like where do you end

with that.

It's like "I started

writing this guidebook and

then suddenly it turned

into a really boring

history book" and it was

like no I you know,

I'm not going to do that.

But it felt it felt very

much like you were really

cherry picking what I


Well it's personal.

You know parks, museums,

apartments, food.

You know I'll leave the

Statue of Liberty to

somebody else.

You mentioned too in the

book that there is

sometimes a sense of New

Yorkers feeling like "this

is my city." Tourists are

coming in and it's like

ruined or something and

you don't feel that way at


I don't like it when they

block the sidewalk.

That is very irritating.

But I feel like everybody

should be able to come


But yeah it's the sense

that it's everybody's city

(yea) which I think is


It is.

It is it's everybody's


Was there any sort of

challenge you ran into

putting the book together.

Yeah I mean I didn't write

that introduction about

how it's not a history

book until after I had

done a lot of like history

writing (writing stuff

out) and then realized

like "I don't want to

write a book that like

anybody else..." what

would be the point.

You know there are people

who are historians who

this is their thing.

But to sort of make those

sort of decisions it's

like you know gee" why

write a book about New


Oh nobody's ever done that

before." So I guess the

only way to do that is to

write about it from one's


You know what's important

to me (yea) and the things

that are important to me.

Do you think you're going

to do another book along

these lines.

My next book is going to

be about Brooklyn (oh yea?

) but it's going to be


Because I don't know


I only know my own


So it's going to be a

diff- it'll be...

similar but different.


thank you so much for

being here.

Thank you for having me.

Check out Going into Town:

A Love Letter to New York

wherever books are sold.

It's funny and charming

and I'm not going to lie,

pretty helpful too.

Thanks for tuning in.


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