Chast — after Munch. (ROZ CHAST/Bloomsbury USA )


The 9-year-old version of Roz Chast liked to lose herself in reading, but not with your standard tween-book fare. She depicts herself at sitting engrossed by “The Big Book of Horrible Rare Diseases.” Or burying her head in “A Child’s Garden of Maladies.”

“I have a phobia about disease, which I guess means, really, Death,” Chast tells Comic Riffs.

What the future cartoonist had an affinity for as a child, though, was busying her mind with alphabet games — running through the letters as a mental springboard.

“I've always liked categorizing and sorting things, making lists and so forth, since I was a kid,” Chast tells ‘Riffs. “The alphabet is a fun listing device.”

Blend Chast’s childhood fun and fears several decades later, and the published creative result is not so surprising:

The title: “What I Hate: From A to Z.”

(Craig Thompson/SPX 2011)

“The first cover I ever did for The New Yorker back in 1986,” she says. “Don’t want to part with that, for some reason.”

Chast, who broke into the New Yorker’s pages in the ‘70s and has been a signature voice of neurotic whimsy seemingly ever since, will appear on two SPX panels. On Saturday, she’ll appear in “conversation” with “Hark! A Vagrant” creator Kate Beaton, who herself cracked the New Yorker cartoon lineup.

(“I think her stuff is terrific,” Chast notes of Beaton’s work.)

These days, besides her New Yorker cartoons, Chast is also working on ”Marco Goes to School,” a sequel to her recent children’s book “Too Busy Marco” (illustrated in pen and ink and watercolor).

And more soberly, she’s working, too, on a book about her parents, both of whom died in recent years.

“It’s a graphic memoir about the last few years of my parents’ lives,” Chast tells us. “I was an only child. My dad died at 95 and my mom died at 97. The last few years were very, very intense.”

“I kept notes, which helped keep me from going completely nuts.”

Chast’s man fans will surely anticipate both books, because any alphabetic listing about her would readily begin with two A’s:

Artistry. And authenticity.

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