Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary was published eight years ago, back when Hillary Clinton was first running for president. I’d wanted to read it at the time, but then election fatigue took its toll and down the TBR list it went. But now here we are again: Hillary Clinton is running for president and new election dramas are unfolding. Even with people still feeling the Bern, she’s the formidable front runner this time around. And though you still can’t exactly call her “cool,” she managed to pick up some more social currency during her stint as Secretary of State. It is with this hindsight that I dove into this book.
I’d been hoping for a more elevated conversation about Hillary. With thirty women, many of whom probably identify as feminist, you’d think that the conversation would move beyond aesthetics and wrestle with Hillary’s ideology, place in pop culture, etc. And some authors did. But mostly, the writers took the title a little too literally: Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary mostly busies itself by looking at Hillary.
Growing up, Roz Chast knew her family was a little different from the other families in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Her parents were much older than all the other children’s parents. Her grandparents lived in much hardship in Russia before immigrating to New York, so Chast’s parents were a always little strange and old-fashioned; she couldn’t wait to grow up and get out of there. As an adult, she found much success as a New Yorker cartoonist, and as time passed, she pointedly stayed away from her quirky parents and childhood home.
Her parents’ advancing age changed everything. Though they were in denial about the inevitable health issues that come with age (they were in their 90s), Chast could clearly see that it was probably time to have The Talk and make plans in the event that they needed special care. She’s immediately shot down by her mother, an argumentative and domineering woman who has taken control of situations all her life: she announces that she and her husband will live to be 100, and that’s that. Her father is the complete opposite: he’s becoming increasingly senile and has always acquiesced to his wife’s orders; having The Talk is just too overwhelming to think about.