Miriam Callahan lives in Washington, D.C.

Lindsay’s post a few weeks ago on being young, broke and female reminded me of this Roz Chast cartoon:

Chast, who graduated from RISD and has been on the staff of The New Yorker since 1979, is one of the most widely-acclaimed contemporary cartoonists. I’ve been enjoying her cartoons recently, as I received her book, Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006, as a gift this past Christmas. It’s 400 pages of Chast’s cartoons on subjects literary (above), scientific (below), and who-would-have-ever-thought-itive (a fantastic 4-page comic on the place in Scottsboro, Alabama where most lost luggage eventually ends up, which is unfortunately too big to reproduce here). I’ve been reading about 30 pages at a time, which takes longer than you might think because some of Chast’s cartoons are pretty text-heavy and/or have details that reward close inspection.

Some of my favorite Chast cartoons touch on specifically female anxieties, like the fear of losing one’s looks in middle age:

Or the fear of not living up to our society’s cult of motherhood (larger version here):

But Chast never limits herself to a particular audience or theme. Take the following cartoon – it’s the first Chast cartoon that the New Yorker ever published, back in 1978:

At that point, as David Remnick says in the introduction to Theories of Everything, “[Chast] had not yet invented her comic self. And yet she was already an innovator. … Back then, even the wildest imaginations among the cartoonists almost always kept within the frame and conventions of the gag cartoon. Roz is always creating something different.”