Recommended Authors/ Wire


My mom likes to tell the story of when she and Dad decided it was time to jettison the couch we’d had my entire life — which was, then, a whole six years, I think. Struck by the beloved object’s approaching tragic fate, I proclaimed: “That orange couch never hurt anybody in its life!”

I will not reveal whether or not that is true of the orange couch featured in Benjamin Parzybok‘s Couch. Early on, the book is about three semi-slacker Portland roommates — a disaffected cult-hero programmer, a small-time con man, and a hippie visionary — who need to move a couch. Very shortly thereafter, the couch-moving, and the book, go sideways and unexpected and enchanting.

I’m late to the party on this book, despite living in the same town as Mr. Parzybok, and having fond memories of the first time I sighted one of his Gumball Poetry Machines. Couch came into my life as part of a big Small Beer Press order I put in near the end of 2009, when they were having an important sale. (Incidentally, they are still having the important sale and you should buy some books from them.)

Anyway, back to Couch. I liked this book a whole lot, and fell into the story in a way that’s increasingly rare for me these days due to double-tracking. A few reasons why:

  • The narrative voice is smart, thoughtful, and endearing. I especially like the programmer Thom’s conversations with his brain, which he calls brain, and his occasional lapses into actual programming language.
  • The characters are self-aware about being part of a quest narrative. Sometimes I find that trope annoying, but in this case it added to my enjoyment.
  • Plus ten for starting out in Portland, in a neighborhood with which I am familiar, and even briefly featuring a particular thrift store of which I am fond. (Trivia for Rules for Hearts fans: the auditions for the Theater Borealis production of Midsummer Night’s Dream take place in the same neighborhood.)

Hm. Now that I’m thinking about it, orange couches play significant roles in two cultural products I enthusiastically endorse:

Orange couch from The Wire

Wonder if my early imprinting has anything to do with it.

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  • Ben
    January 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Actually – and I hope I’m not giving away too much here – it was your couch that I used in the book. I very much appreciate the loan, and I plan on returning it any day now. Hardly has a scratch on it. Just a little stitch work and it’ll be good as new.

    And I should mention – there’s something a little strange about that couch. In all honesty, I shall be glad to be rid of it.

    (& thanks very much for your kind words – great to meet another pdx author)

  • Sara
    January 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Oh, well, I’m glad to hear the orange couch has been useful over the years. And, really, no rush on returning it. I mean, moving a couch — it seems simple, but it can take quite a bit of coordinated effort.

    (& you are most welcome — look forward to reading more of your work!)