( 8 )


"Couch hits on an improbable, even fantastic premise, and then rigorously hews to the logic that it generates, keeping it afloat (at times literally) to the end."
Los Angeles Times

"Delightfully lighthearted writing. . . . Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the enthusiastic prose carries readers through sporadic dark moments . . . Parzybok’s quirky humor recalls the flaws and successes of early Douglas Adams."—Publishers Weekly

"The book ...

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"Couch hits on an improbable, even fantastic premise, and then rigorously hews to the logic that it generates, keeping it afloat (at times literally) to the end."
Los Angeles Times

"Delightfully lighthearted writing. . . . Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the enthusiastic prose carries readers through sporadic dark moments . . . Parzybok’s quirky humor recalls the flaws and successes of early Douglas Adams."—Publishers Weekly

"The book succeeds as a conceptual art piece, a literary travelogue, and a fantastical quest."
Willamette Week

"Hundreds of writers have slavishly imitated—or outright ripped off—Tolkien in ways that connoisseurs of other genres would consider shameless. What Parzybok has done here in adapting the same old song to a world more familiar to the reader is to revive the genre and make it relevant again"
The Stranger

A Spring Summer Indie Next Reading List Pick: Top 10 Reading Group Suggestions
"Couch follows the quirky journey of Thom, Erik, and Tree as they venture into the unknown at the behest of a magical, orange couch, which has its own plan for their previously boring lives. Parzybok's colorful characters, striking humor, and eccentric magical realism offer up an adventuresome read."
—Christian Crider, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

A January 2009 Indie Next List Pick

"This funny novel of furniture moving gone awry is a magical realism quest for modern times. Parzybok's touching story explores the aimlessness of our culture, a society of jobs instead of callings, replete with opportunities and choices but without the philosophies and vocations we need to make meaningful decisions."
—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

"A lot of people are looking for magic in the world today, but only Benjamin Parzybok thought to check the sofa, which is, I think, the place it’s most likely to be found. Couch is a slacker epic: a gentle, funny book that ambles merrily from Coupland to Tolkien, and gives couch-surfing (among other things) a whole new meaning.”
—Paul La Farge

"One of the strangest road novels you'll ever read. It's a funny and fun book, and it's also a very smart book. Fans of Tom Robbins or Christopher Moore should enjoy this."
—Handee Books

"It is an upholstered Odyssey unlike any other you are likely to read. It is funny, confusing in places, wild and anarchic. It is part Quixote, part Murakami, part Tom Robbins, part DFS showroom. It has cult hit written all over it."
—Scott, Me and My Big Mouth

Benjamin Parzybok on tour:

In this exuberant and hilarious debut reminiscent of The Life of Pi and Then We Came to the End, an episode of furniture moving gone awry becomes an impromptu quest of self-discovery, secret histories, and unexpected revelations.

Thom is a computer geek whose hacking of a certain Washington-based software giant has won him a little fame but few job prospects. Erik is a smalltime con man, a fast-talker who is never quite quick enough on his feet. Their roommate, Tree, is a confused clairvoyant whose dreams and prophecies may not be completely off base. After a freak accident fl oods their apartment, the three are evicted—but they have to take their couch with them. The real problem? The couch—huge and orange—won’t let them put it down. Soon the three roommates are on a cross-country trek along back roads, byways, and rail lines, heading far out of Portland and deep into one very weird corner of the American dream.

Benjamin Parzybok is the creator of Gumball Poetry, a journal published through gumball machines, and the Black Magic Insurance Agency, a city-wide mystery/treasure hunt. He has worked as a congressional page, a ghostwriter for the governor of Washington, a web developer, a Taiwanese factory technical writer, an asbestos removal janitor, and a potato sorter. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with the writer Laura Moulton and their two children.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Parzybok's delightfully lighthearted writing successfully diverts attention from the heavy-handed plot devices that threaten to overwhelm this ambitious debut. An apartment flood destroys almost everything owned by mismatched roommates Thom, Tree and Erik, leaving only the handmade orange couch, which the landlord demands they remove. Broke, jobless and now homeless, the roommates begin carrying their couch through the streets of Portland, Ore., and quickly discover two things: it might be magical, and Goodwill won't take it. They reluctantly embark on a hapless quest to take the couch exactly where it "wants to go." Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the enthusiastic prose carries readers through sporadic dark moments, though it can't save a clunky finale that leaves too many unanswered questions, including the survival of its heroes. Parzybok's quirky humor recalls the flaws and successes of early Douglas Adams. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Barnes & Noble Review
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. --Paul DiFilippo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931520546
  • Publisher: Small Beer Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Parzybok created a journal published through gumball machines (Gumball Poetry) and a city-wide mystery/treasure hunt (Black Magic Insurance Agency). His previous jobs include: ghostwriter for the Governor of Washington state, web developer, Taiwanese factory technical writer, asbestos removal janitor, potato sorter, and congressional page. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with the writer Laura Moulton and their son.
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Read an Excerpt

Highway 30 was loud and unwelcoming, with cars blazing past, all exhaust and noise. Looking down from the Sauvie Island Bridge, they saw railroad tracks that followed alongside the road. The tracks seemed far more peaceful than the highway for couch-carrying, and a movement was made to do the trek on those. The couch felt light and easy, and Thom almost convinced himself that the weight issues of the previous day were imagined.

They pushed the couch down the weedy slope to the railroad tracks, and the three studied them, trying to determine how often trains passed. Erik laid his ear on the rail and declared, "Not a train in a hundred miles!"

The tracks were rusted, but a streak of polished metal gleamed through, tracing a silvery line into the distance.

Thom and Erik carried the couch, stumbling over the ties. Their ankles twisted and blisters that had started the day before began to bloom. Tree walked trying to balance on the rail or guide the couch. They spoke little, issuing only grunts and couch directions. Thom was lost in thought over the Sauvie Island house. Unresolved issues bubbled up in a stew of emotions.

After only an hour or two of walking on the uneven surface they were exhausted. They stopped to apply moleskin to their feet and to take lunch, setting the couch crosswise on the tracks and pulling out various items from their gear, spreading everything out in a disorganized radius.

"Well, this is fun," Erik said after the eating had slowed. Tree crammed more bread and jam into his mouth. All of them had been sweating through their winter clothes, and now the cold set in. The cloud cover was thick, with dark welts threatening at the edges. Theyrubbed their hands together to keep warm. Thom fought off sleep, comfortable on the couch. Ahead was a blackberry-bush corridor, a hallway of thorns with the rails down the center. It was an inviting green passageway, just large enough for a couch and those who might carry it, but an restricted one, the thorns dense and bristling on either side. Erik pulled out a cigarette and smoked slowly.

"Where'd you get that?" Thom said.

"Emergency gear." Erik held it at arm's length and studied it. "Gives you the impression you're warm even if you're not."

"You know, I think I'd like one."

Erik pulled a cigarette out, lit it from his own, and gave it to Thom.

"Yes sir," Thom exhaled. "Three boys lost in the Arctic."

"I wonder how many days it will take to get to Astoria," Tree said. He'd found a second small jar of blackberry jam and was spreading it thickly across a hunk of bread.

"Not more than another month or two," Thom tested to determine his roommates' knowledge of distance and endurance.

"Wow," Erik said, confirming Thom's suspicions.

"I'm joking. It probably won't be more than a week. It'll be hellish, though, if we walk on these damn tracks the whole way. We should build some kind of wheeled gizmo for the bottom of the couch."

"Yeah," Tree said, "let's do."

"This vacation is cheaper than I thought it was going to be." Erik pulled a wad of bills from his back pocket. "I've still got, like, fourteen dollars left."

"You're loaded," said Thom.

"I didn't have any dreams last night. It's the first night in a long time that I haven't had dreams."

"That's because a winter day at Sheilene's place is very much like a dream." Thom blew smoke. "I could go to sleep right now."

"How'd that go for you? I've been meaning to ask. I mean, first of all, why'd you leave her? She's, you know, she's a catch and all. Muscular." Erik raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"It was nice there," Tree said. "I wish we could have stayed longer."

"First of all, I didn't leave her. She kicked me out."

"She doesn't seem like that kind of person at all," Tree said.

Erik nodded. "What'd you do? Must have been something bad."

"Well, she didn't kick me out. More like she suggested I leave. I don't know, we just weren't getting along. We had different interests. I went in to work at a job I hated all day, didn't really have any interests other than computer stuff, and she ... I don't know. She wants a groovier guy, you know? She wants someone a little less of a nerd, someone less logical that can, I don't know, fill up the house more. She admires what I do and all, it's just that, I don't ... I'm half machine."

"Six Million Dollar Man," said Erik.

"Except not that much."

"The Thirty-Four Dollar and Ninety-Five Cents Man."

"Listen!" Tree yelled.

"To what?" Erik heard a bird chirp, the distant din of the highway.


"I don't ... Train!" Thom tried to yell, but his voice went suddenly hoarse. He leapt off the couch, stumbled to his knees on the uneven tracks, and lurched back to his feet. His giant body became a blur of motion. He started throwing everything they had left on the tracks to the side: bags and shoes and first aid kits and packs and tarps and food. Erik and Tree lifted the couch and each tried to push it the other way. Tree slipped and fell under the couch and then the train rounded the bend behind them.

"Get away!" Thom yelled. "Get away!" his voice came back.

The train let out a whistle that made his molars ache.

Tree stood up, disoriented, and Erik gave the couch a mighty shove that knocked Tree off his feet again and into the blackberry bushes and set the couch on the tracks at an angle. Thom realized there was no way to save the couch short of throwing it up onto the bank. Erik and Thom lay in the ditch. Thom looked up briefly to see the impact with the couch, and then it was gone. A blur of orange, a wooden concussion.

The train passed for what felt like hours. The wheels were just feet from their heads, flinging small rocks violently off into the ditch. When it passed, a ringing silence followed, a sound that was the absence of sound. The couch was nowhere in sight.

Thom and Erik stood up. It looked like their belongings had been air-dropped from five hundred feet. They helped Tree extract himself from the blackberry bushes.

"It's gone," Tree said.

"Well, that's that," Erik said, dusting his hands.

"There's got to be traces of it. It can't have just disappeared," Thom said. His body trembled from fear and vibration.

"It definitely disappeared." Erik gestured to where the couch wasn't. "There ain't nothing left. Think if one of us had been hit. We'd have been exploded into a million bits."

Thom brushed gravel from his face. "I don't think it was atomized. Either it was thrown into the blackberries or it's stuck to the front of the train."

They paused and considered the image of the couch snagged on the front of the train, fastened haphazardly by an armrest, one end dragging on the ground, being torn to shreds as it sped away from them.

"Nahhh," Tree said, clearly shaken. "Couldn't be."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Slacker magical realism

    Its like if lord of the rings was modwen day, portland was the shirw and rednecks with shotguns arw orcs. And yet it is even more wonderfullu surreal than that. Great book

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    How many stars can I give this book?

    I wish that I could've been a character in this incredibly original book! By far one of my favorite stories ever! I'm so excited about this book that I'm going to buy a case and pass them out to strangers, just so every one can savor the beauty of imagination and forward thinking!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2014

    Good book

    It's slacker ficand I like it. Three roommates fall under the spell of a couch which has a gypsy soul.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2014

    Stay with it

    Silly but fun. My first weird book, but could not stop reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2014

    don't bother


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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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