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The Old Blue Couch and Other Stories Perfect Paperback – November 16, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


To write unlikable characters yet make their story enjoyable seems like a difficult task. Yet Seymour Mayne manages to make several unpleasant men kind of charming in his new collection The Old Blue Couch and Other Stories. A more uplifting story is The Story of My Aunt s Comforter, in which a family hand-me-down that can no longer be used is adapted to new purposes that literally bring comfort to another generation. The other stories in the collection have another possessive man thinking that a fellow shul-goer may have stolen his tallit, a social group that forms out of a man s (then many men s) pride for their first name, a man who just ups and leaves his wife (to Vancouver) and a Kiddush club whose members refuse to drink responsibly yet are facilitated by the rabbi when a potential whiskey shortage threatens the club s survival. There is only one story about a woman, an Israeli who is searching for something that she cannot define, though she expresses discontent with the political situation there when she visits Canada, where she once lived briefly, asking her cousin to take her to churches so that she can photograph them; she thought she had exhausted the synagogues of interest, but finds out differently. So, while it is hard to empathize with his (male) characters, Mayne s understanding of their essence and motivations, as well as his folksy style and sense of humor, make The Old Blue Couch and Other Stories engaging and, yes, charming. --Jewish Independent

Reading Seymour Mayne s collection of short stories, The Old Blue Couch, brought forth images of discarded and forgotten couches, clothing, and books you can see lining Toronto streets daily. In Mayne s collection, each of these items has its own story and fabricated history, drawing his narrators into false promises of renewal, longevity, and immortality. Showcasing the everyday lives of material items from the points of view of their admirers, Mayne s work gathers a rummage sale of memories together and collapses them each into shadow boxes filled with nostalgia and an anxious anticipation of the future. The collection s title piece introduces us to a husband and his old blue couch. The couch serves to remind the protagonist of the potential unknown life of domestic items used and abused. The narrator believes that a bond of pain [has] stitched [he and the couch] together in a new fraternity, and the couch becomes the narrator s new family while he begins to slowly ostracize his own. His couch, he is convinced, has survived wars, immigration, and displacement and has been owned by great leaders and artists; however, what makes the couch, and this story, eerily reminiscent of our contemporary moment is the narrator s refusal to let the worn out couch go. It s clearly in need of restoration or, according to his wife, a funeral, and yet the narrator holds onto the couch despite its nefarious power over him. The narrator s attachment to the couch becomes a metaphor for a political nation that requires change, and a citizen s refusal to see what harm tattered policies bestow upon others. He holds onto the couch at the expense of his wife, friends, and sanity turning this story of domestic bliss into a cautionary tale about the perils of refusing to live in the everyday moment. Beautifully bound and presented, The Old Blue Couch provides us with a rare snapshot of unlikable characters. In this collection it is not a case of good people making bad decisions in a moment of crisis; rather, this collection provides us with clear images of bad people doing hypocritical things under the guise of an almost possessive and materialistic understanding of faith. --Maple Tree Literary Supplement

Despite minor lapses ito sentimental reverie, The Old Blue Couch and Other Stories remains a thoroughly engaging read. Through a common thematic trend towards self-discovery, these stories demonstrate an exceptional awareness of the subtle and often unexpected influences that help, or in some cases hinder, this process. Mayne presents his protagonists, and by extension his readers, with the right way and the wrong way to pursue self-improvement and, although this is sometimes accomplished through heavy-handed references to Jewish mysticism, Mayne is at his comedic best when he is playfully irreverent of these tenets. --The Bull Calf

About the Author

Seymour Mayne is the author, editor, or translator of numerous books. Volumes of his selected poems recently appeared in French, Hebrew, and Spanish editions. He lives and works in Ottawa.

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Ronald. P Frye; 1st edition (November 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770810579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770810570
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 6.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,885,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Zeldie Stuart on January 24, 2015
Format: Perfect Paperback
download on iCloud Kindle as ibooks does not have this book available for download. Enjoyable good stories. yes, I do recommend this good read.
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