House of Coates
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House of Coates

Novel by Brad Zellar with Photographs by Alec Soth

The life and photographs of Lester B. Morrison, legendary recluse. Can a man living in the shadows find redemption?

October 2014
6 3/4 x 8 3/4 | 140 Pages, 68 Color Photographs
Trade Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-56689-370-1.



Washed up in the shadow of a refinery, Lester B. Morrison, legendary recluse, documents his life in a series of photographs taken with a disposable camera. In a landscape of off ramps, warehouses, and SRO hotels occupied by terminally lonely men, love and faith break in, quietly offering human connection and the possibility of redemption.

“An exquisitely haunting, melancholic treasure of a book about people who drop out and populate tiny towns and rural communities, and the longing and loneliness of the human condition.” —Judy Natal, Photo-Eye

“One of the great American moves is vagrancy, the freedom to drift, the right to look at things from outside the mainstream. The prose in House of Coates hums with this irreducible freedom. The photographs are both perfectly artless and undeniably visionary. Any question of fiction, non-fiction, subterfuge, or narrative trickery is superfluous in a book like this one, so appealingly strange, so delicately balanced, and so incontestably bound to its time and place.” —Teju Cole, author of Open City

“As Brad Zellar so vividly illustrates in his new limited-edition collaboration with photographer Alec Soth, House Of Coates, broken men have always been with us, haunting us, providing a mirror. Society may label them bums, homeless, or pariahs, but Zellar’s empathetic writing allows the reader to get inside one broken man, and therefore all.” —Jim Walsh, MinnPost

Brad Zellar has worked as a writer and editor for daily and weekly newspapers, as well as for both regional and national magazines. He is the author of Suburban World: The Norling PhotosThe 1968 ProjectConductors of the Moving World, and House of Coates.

Alec Soth is a photographer whose first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published by Steidl in 2004. Since then Soth has published over a dozen books including Niagara (2006), Dog Days, Bogotá (2007), The Last Days of W (2008), and Broken Manual (2010). Soth’s work has been exhibited at Jeu de Paume in Paris and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.


“Transfixing . . a haunting change of pace.” New York Times 

“[An] interesting, well-executed book. Ultimately, it’s less a narrative about Lester than it is a prose poem about loners and losers, the many Lesters who ‘never entirely disappear as adults, even if you still persist in not seeing them.’” Publishers Weekly 

“[A] poetic attempt not to fully form a life but only to capture moments of memory and objects of counterintuitive beauty. . . . The prose is crisp and thoughtful and well-matched to the photos that show the side of America to which even most Americans never give a second thought.” Kirkus Reviews

“An enigmatic, innovative, and deadpan novel . . . what [Zellar and Soth have] mined here falls somewhere in between W. G. Sebald’s photograph-strewn novels and Carson McCullers’s small-town freaks and loners: The result is an unaccountably strange and liberating narrative.” –Vogue

House of Coates can only be described as a personal truth of sorts, one wrapped in artistic mystery and pierced with startling photographs. Zellar’s prose encapsulating Lester’s life so well, that it won’t matter if he is made of flesh and blood or not, for you will feel he is undeniably real, with no need for further research.” –The Intentional

“A kind of case study of human drift.” Star Tribune

“This collaboration between writer Brad Zellar and photographer Alec Soth . . . captures in 133 pages the essence of those who live on the edges of society.” Pioneer Press

“A standout . . . exquisitely written.” —Book Riot

“The book is really as much about the place as it is about Lester . . . and both story and photos describe a connection among them that’s almost spiritual. . . . This is a truly, deeply Minnesotan story, and one well worth spending some time with.”

“The story is haunting and lovely and artful . . . a jewel of a book.” The Millions

“You’ll be swept away by House of Coates. . . The best picture book ever for adults?” Donna Trump

“Brad Zellar makes intriguing and vital observations on types of character traits that defy cultural assumptions and stereotypes of masculinity. Combining vivid writing with photographs by Alec Soth, the novel becomes an enlivened testament to our complicated associations and relationships with the world and each other.” TJ Eckleburg Review

“Gentle and unsparing in equal measure.” Bustle

“A beautiful object, both for readers of fiction and for people who like Alec’s photography who are also interested in artists’ books.” OZY

“A very handsome paperback edition . . . a new afterword wraps the whole mystery of Lester beautifully.” MinnPost

“Loneliness . . . with a seedy flavor, a weatherworn feel, both angrier and more subdued, totally frank and intimate, but also silent and empty. What’s truly amazing about this book, having just described it in such terms, is that it strikes some very familiar chord without seeming cliché or archetypal or borrowed.” Nomadic Press