The Parallel Apartments

The Parallel Apartments

3.3 3
by Bill Cotter

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Justine Moppett is 34, pregnant, and fleeing an abusive relationship in New York to dig up an even more traumatic childhood in Austin. Waiting for her there is a cast of more than a dozen misfits — a hemophobic aspiring serial killer, a deranged soprano opera singer, a debt-addicted entrepreneur-cum-madam, a matchmaking hermaphrodite — each hurtling…  See more details below


Justine Moppett is 34, pregnant, and fleeing an abusive relationship in New York to dig up an even more traumatic childhood in Austin. Waiting for her there is a cast of more than a dozen misfits — a hemophobic aspiring serial killer, a deranged soprano opera singer, a debt-addicted entrepreneur-cum-madam, a matchmaking hermaphrodite — each hurtling toward their own calamities, and, ultimately, toward each other. A Texan Gabriel García Márquez who writes tragicomic twists reminiscent of John Kennedy Toole, Bill Cotter produces some of the most visceral, absurd, and downright hilarious sentences to be found in fiction today. The Parallel Apartments is a bold leap forward for a writer whose protean talents, whose sheer exuberance for language and what a novel can do, marks him as one of the most exciting stylists in America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Justine Moppett’s life is at a crossroads: unexpectedly pregnant, living in New York with a man she doesn’t love, she swiftly moves home to Austin after learning that her adoptive mother is actually her birth mother. Once settled in a motel room famous for a series of grisly murders, Justine drinks Dr. Pepper, watches reruns of Law and Order, and collages, contemplating her next move. The latest from Cotter (Fever Chart) is a jagged merry-go-round, a nested mystery, vaulting through time and place, allowing the history of Justine’s family—grandmother Charlotte, mother Livia, grandfather Lou, and Lou’s companion, Dot—to come into focus. As Justine inches closer to confronting her mother, she falls for Rose, a local hermaphrodite, who works overtime to bring Justine’s family together. Other residents of Austin with similar desires—babies, recognition, freedom—gradually pop up, as well, eventually colliding with Justine both at the novel’s titular apartment complex, as well as in the narrative’s ugly climax. Cotter has a knack for tone, with scenes shifting from the playful to the downright unsettling. The secrets of Justine’s family are engrossing, even if, at certain moments, the reader proclaims “aha” long before Cotter’s characters. Still, it’s unfortunate that some of the novel’s side stories—Murphy, the wannabe serial killer; Alice, the baby-hungry soprano—don’t feel truly necessary, existing more for the tale’s unpleasant apex than for true narrative reflections of Justine’s tribulations. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"Reading Bill Cotter's The Parallel Apartments is like taking some kind of word drug, but a new one, synthesized in a desert lab from molecules of Lipsyte, Dickens, Pynchon, Williams, Chabon, DeWitt, and Joyce, and then spun together with Cotter's own unique particles to yield a book that produces an actual high when read. There's micro-attention paid to sweatpants material and the feel of artificial cheese powder on fingertips and the bouillon smell of nether regions. There is sadness. There is loneliness. There are riffs that make me wish an actor were there to read to me aloud, so I could cry from laughter without needing to clearly see the page. This book is an experience—it is a never-read-anything-like-it-before work of brainy, heartfelt joy." —Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers and The Effect of Living Backwards

"Bill Cotter writes with so much dark wit, such a keen eye for unsettling detail, such a perfect ear for the ways in which his bruised yet hopeful characters think and speak, that the sheer force of his fictional mind took me by surprise. The Parallel Apartments is an amazing read." —Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me

"Four generations of Austin women—or five or three, depending on how you count—rivet our attention in this ribald and absolutely compelling novel. Both playfully absurd and absurdly playful, The Parallel Apartments is full of fresh language, exact observation, and—best of all—an underlying and genuine tenderness." —Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love

"Funny and profane and more than slightly unhinged." —Texas Monthly

"Inventive and hilarious, The Parallel Apartments delights in the oddities of people and language. Inhabiting a mesmerizing and unnerving kaleidoscope world, Bill Cotter’s vivid characters turn “extreme” into the new normal. " —Full Stop

"Apartments produces anxiety but ultimately rewards tribulation, recalling at times Updike’s capacity for wringing both pathos and humor from vulnerable circumstances. Cotter’s characters are both endearing and cringe-inducingly maladroit, and he does his best work in the awkwardness created by mishandled moments of human frailty. … Cotter’s stunningly constructed prose provides comfort from the mayhem." —Time Out New York

"Cotter manages to be surreal, gruesome, and snortingly funny. Do yourself a favor and give in to The Parallel Apartments' gravitational pull."
Entertainment Weekly

"By the time you're finished with The Parallel Apartments … you're going to want the author to accompany you everywhere for the rest of your life."
The Austin Chronicle

"The Parallel Apartments is difficult to define. One part kooky comedy, one part family drama, one part exploration of womanhood, and one part gruesome catalogue of emotional dysfunction, Cotter’s second novel defies any particular genre, except, perhaps, Cotter’s own."
The Texas Observer

“Bill Cotter’s darkly comic stories are powered by his delightfully strange and sometimes disturbing imagination, his empathetic character, and his graceful way with words.” —The Rumpus

"Trying to describe The Parallel Apartments is like trying to pat your head while rubbing your stomach while reciting the alphabet backwards."
The Texas Observer

"Cotter has mastered, from the lowest to highest orders, the elements of fiction; his sentences are as grand as the sweeping architectural details of his book's structure."
Rain Taxi

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Product Details

McSweeney's Publishing
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)

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Meet the Author

Bill Cotter was born in Dallas in 1964 and has worked as an antiquarian book dealer and restorer since 2000. He lives in Austin, TX, with the storyteller Annie La Ganga. His first novel was Fever Chart.

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The Parallel Apartments 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He nodded and drove
Anonymous More than 1 year ago