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ly since I hadn't sold The New Yorker a ton
of work. But I was real surprised to sell
them a cartoon in the first place."
A Chast cartoon can now be found in
most issues of The New Yorker. A few have
graced the magazine's cover.
After graduating from the Rhode Island
School of Design (RSD), Chast lived in
Flatbush with her parents — an assistant
principal in an elementary school and a
high school French teacher. "I shlepped in-
to Manhattan once or twice a week with
an illustration portfolio and tried to get ap-
pointments with art directors at maga-
zines or ad agencies. In my heart of hearts,
I wanted to do cartoons. But I thought,
`No way I can make a living at this.' I once
showed an art director about 20 to 30 car-
toons and about 10 completely phony,
cooked-up illustration-style drawings.
"Of course, they hired me for the illustra-
Briefly at RSD, Chast had thought she
would be a professional still-life painter. "I
fell in love with talking about paintings
and painters and looking at paintings. But
it wasn't anything I had any talent for. I
certainly wasn't very good at talking about
"Occasionally at a campus bar, I would
see a certain student and a teacher in real-
ly deep conversation. And I would know
they were having a serious conversation
"I still think they don't. But in the back
of my mind, I thought, as distasteful as it
might be to some, this is what I want to
And this, indeed, is what she has done:
Refined her tiny, squiggly style that many
people mistake for doodling and defined
her humor that many people mistake for
heightened goofiness. Hers is the kind of
mind that can come up with "The Little
Engine That Could, But Just Didn't Feel
Like It" or with an astronaut's chantey (ca.
1993-95) that goes:
Oh, there ain't no dogs on Mars,
No cake or candy bars,
But there's rock and sand and some kind
And some people say that it's mighty
But there's not much to do but sit and
At gobs and gobs of stars.
Just where does Chast get her inspira-
Asked whether she sat around reading
Kafka or Kant or Russian novels for ideas
for her strips, Chast said, "Oh, no. I watch
`Wheel of Fortune.' I'm a slave to Pat Sa-
jack [the game show's host]."
Asked whether she is a silly person, she
said, "Well, there is a certain frequency
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about art that I would never ever be able
to participate in.
Chast did few cartoons while at RSD be-
cause "I felt cartooning was somehow a
lesser thing. The reaction to drawing
something that struck you as humorous
was, `O00000, how does that relate to the
picture plane?' "
But Chast wouldn't give up her cartoon-
ing, something she had been pulled to since
she had drawn her first strip at the age of
14. "I don't think they went over real big
with everybody," she said of her early work.
that is all nonsense."
Asked whether she sees the world as tiny
as she draws it, she said, "When I draw,
that's the way it comes out. I used to draw
really tiny. Soon after The New Yorker
began running my work, it blew up one car-
toon that was very, very small. That
bothered me. But this is as big as they get."
Asked whether she had been "a cut-up"
in school, she said, "No."
Whether she is "a cut-up" now, she said,
Whether she wants to be "a cut-up," she
said, "Am I now or have I ever been a cut-