Saturday, May 5, 2012

You've Got to Read Couch

I've had a favorite book for 30 years, and that's "Vanity Fair," by
William Makepeace Thackeray. It pretty much says it all. So, I've had
little call to push books by other authors, beyond simply recommending
them to a few friends.

But now, I am on a mission to introduce as many people as I can to a
wonderful little fantasy called "Couch" (2008), by Benjamin
Parzybok. Take heed, all you geeks. Couch is an all-too-short glimpse
into the depths of geek soul.

As the book opens, three apartment mates in Portland, Oregon, are
sitting on a big orange couch, toking up and generally being
slackers. One is a computer hacker who has made something of a
reputation but who has gotten busted and now can't find a job. Another
is a streetwise hustler, and a third is a new-agey hippie.

The building gets flooded out, and the landlord sees this as an
opportunity to tear it down and build upscale lofts. Our three
roommates get kicked out, and the landlord says, "and take that ugly
couch with you."

Thus begins an epic and often hilarious journey as the three try
repeatedly to give the couch away and part ways with one another. But
no one will take the couch, and the couch gets heavier if they go in
certain directions. After a while, it's evident that the couch has
magic powers, and they have no choice but to go where it makes them
go, even if that means carrying the damn thing into the ocean.

As the journey lengthens, our hippie character, Tree, seems prescient,
and guides his reluctant buddies, saying "I think it wants us to go
here..." which eventually gets them fished out of the sea onto a
trawler bound for South America. When Tree falls overboard, though, we
grieve and suddenly wonder if the couch is good or evil.

Our remaining characters seem inevitably to be drawn into a mysterious
quest, fighting off villains after the couch, and we're pulled into a
mystical world far from the one we live in daily.

The geek character, Thom, searches for the meaning of this adventure
and shows amazing depth and growth that make us want to believe this
could really happen. As a geek myself, I spend a lot of time on the
couch, living a fantasy life to balance out the overly rational and
logical life I lead. Erik, who starts out as a petty thief, shows
great heroism and ultimately saves the day, much even to his own
surprise. And when we again see the reborn Tree, we rejoice.

I've bought two copies so far, and I lend them out to whomever will
take them. If you liked "Lord of the Rings," but prefer a bit of
modern irony, angst, and uncertainty, this is your ticket. I don't know
how a book so small could dig so deep. Even Thackeray would have loved
this one. Get it from Small Beer Press or Amazon.

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