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January/February 2019
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Pink Furniture, by A. E. Coppard (1930)

Decades ago, every used-book sale featured a copy of The Collected Tales of A. E. Coppard, token of the author's quondam popularity. But Coppard (1878-1957) is mostly forgotten today except for "Adam and Eve and Pinch Me," oft-anthologized. A shame, given his large talents as evidenced in Pink Furniture. It's a charming, touching romp of sadly out-of-fashion Learesque nonsense ("We had a crooked bishop once,/With geometric views,/His texts were perpendicular,/His sermons quite obtuse.") conjoined with Moers-style daft adventures.

Young Toby lives with Aunt and Uncle Notright somewhat contentedly, but ultimately plans on bravely running away. When pal Bridget mentions the legendary and highly desirable Pink Furniture, "He resolved never to return to school, but to go forth into the world and think about Pink Furniture for hours at a stretch, and seek for nothing but Pink Furniture until he found some."

Toby meets a Tom Bombadil-type, "the Forester," then makes a trip to the Hedgehog Market ("Fine quilly hogs, with snouts like apples and mad with fury!"), the prelude to many miraculous and alarming escapades, including an intermediate quest for the book known as Open and Ask Me. A long stay in Purganda, home to obsessive readers, segues into a pirate attack and abandonment on the island of Patcat, where the Open and Ask Me is found, and the enigma of Pink Furniture partially dissipated. Back home, as with Dorothy in Kansas, Toby and Bridget discover Pink Furniture right on their hearth.

Of the many lessons learned, I choose to remember this one: "Love is a panther's foot/And none may see its claws."

—Paul Di Filippo

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