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'House of Coates' Novel Takes Readers to Society's Fringes

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Coffee House Press

The people who inhabit Minnesota writer Brad Zellar’s novel, House of Coates, are all around us, but most of us rarely notice them.

They’re the men who have faded away from family and community and retreated to the fringes of society.

In Zellar’s novel, the hero Lester B. Morrison often lives in his car and sometimes in sketchy rooming houses in southern Minnesota. Things start to change for Morrison when he meets a woman who sees an opportunity to bring him into the fold.

Zellar worked on the book with photographer Alec Soth. The book features pictures of Morrison’s often bleak world on the margins. Zellar is in Madison through the fall as part of a UW-Madison Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Arts Residency, and he spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich over the phone.

"There's also something in my own personality that wrestles with those two worlds. You know, the need for solitude and the desire to be a part of a community," Zellar says. "And I think that wrestling match goes on all the time for everybody in different degrees."

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.