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FAMILY : Zingers for Children

<i> Lynne Heffley is a Times staff writer</i>

Cartoonist Roz Chast, whose deceptively simple, instantly recognizable slice- of-life zingers have been a regular feature in the New Yorker for almost 20 years, recently added illustrations for two children’s books--"Now Everybody Really Hates Me” and “Gabby the Shrew"--to her credits.

Original art from those books along with some of Chast’s ink-and-wash New Yorker cartoons and classical music covers she designed for Deutsche Grammophon’s “Mad About . . . " series can be seen in her first West Coast solo exhibition, which opened Friday at Every Picture Tells a Story . . . , an art gallery specializing in children’s book art.

The books were a recent departure for Chast, mother of a 4- and 7-year-old, who is still plotting her weekly deflatings of the absurd.

“I’m sort of on a Newt Gingrich bent right now, and I almost have to curb myself,” she observed wryly during a phone interview from her Connecticut home. “It’s almost too easy.”

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Before Chast began working for the New Yorker in 1978, she hadn’t expected to make a living at what had been a high school hobby.

“I graduated (from the Rhode Island School of Design) in painting and knew that was completely hopeless,” she said. “So I thought I’d be practical and put together an illustration portfolio.”

Success was elusive, however, until Chast decided “I might as well try doing what I really wanted to do.” The rest is cartoon history.

* Every Picture Tells a Story . . . , 7525 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Feb. 23. (213) 932-6070.

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