Couch

BENJAMIN PARZYBOK

Once upon a time, Donald Barthelme, Jonathan Lethem, and Umberto Eco attended a film festival together. The featured flicks were Kiss Me Deadly, Fitzcarraldo, and Repo Man. Inspired by this odd bill of fare, the trio set out to collaborate on a novel. The result was Benjamin Parzybok?s debut, Couch . Not the way it happened? Well, it?s a genesis story competely in keeping with this gonzo odyssey. Three young men in Portland, Oregon, are brought together by chance as roommates: Thom, a hapless computer hacker; Tree, an accidental wistful mystic; and Erik, an egregious con man and brawler. Their shabby digs are graced by an enigmatic piece of furniture: a large, handmade orange couch. When a domestic accident forces their eviction, they decide to salvage the couch. Once out on the street, they begin to carry the couch…and carry it…and carry it…. For the couch is possessed — or intelligent, or alien, or supernaturally graced with celestial mana. Modern artifact or ancient grail, it makes no matter. Our trio of lovable losers has been cosmically nominated to function as the couch?s bearers to an unforseeable destiny. Fighting and bickering every step of the way, they undergo a series of trials: comic and pratfall-laden on the surface, but surprisingly affecting and mythic underneath. Parzybok?s easy voice is guileless and contemporary, fluid and colorful as that of Tom Robbins, yet concealing considerable craft. His intermittent switching among the consciousnesses of his trio — and even including other secondary viewpoints — is not a classical strategy, but it works pretty well. Privileging Thom?s perspective, Parzybok delivers a funny yet deep novel that?s all about the quest to pass from a stultifying, aimless, safe stasis to a dangerous yet fulfilling uncertainty — via one humble piece of furniture.