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The Apartment: A Novel Hardcover – December 3, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2013: At times meandering, but also but weirdly captivating, this debut novel follows an unnamed man shambling through the snowy streets of an unnamed Eastern European city (Prague?)--an ancient place where “intense joy and intense sorrow are extinct”--on a freezing-cold day as he and his not-quite-girlfriend search for an apartment. That’s basically it. And while it never quite launches, the defiantly moody and sullen tone has admirable charms. I felt I should’ve been wearing a scarf while reading. And smoking. And drinking. Eventually we learn bits of backstory: the man is an Iraq war vet who later returned to Baghdad and made a fortune. His apparent guilt, and the unspoken horrors he seems to have witnessed (or perpetrated?) give the book its emotional heft. Quirky, poetic, and flaunting some truly stunning moments, this is a book to give into, and a writer to watch. --Neal Thompson

Review

"It is precisely this sort of subversion, along with the author's shimmering prose, that makes THE APARTMENT such a surprisingly compelling read and so apropos; it captures the mood of the current moment and what seems to be a new "lost generation," one formed not so much by exposure to violence, as immunity to and alienation from it. Once upon a time, there was no place like home; in Mr. Baxter's world, home, it seems, is no place."—Adam Langer, The New York Times

"THE APARTMENT Greg Baxter's absorbing, atmospheric and enigmatic first novel, unfolds in extended paragraphs without chapter breaks on a single snowy mid-December day in a fictional European city that evokes aspects of Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Its long, frigid journey into a long, sleepless night explores a man's uneasy relationship with his past, himself and a world in which violence is inescapable."—Los Angeles Times

"THE APARTMENT proved to be a quiet and powerful read through and through. Baxter's clean and direct prose generates its own momentum. He chooses not to create a tidy drama where characters are explained by their pasts. Rather, he creates something bigger and more true."—The Daily Beast

"Violence, lurking offstage throughout the story, makes a shocking entrance near the end, setting in place everything that's come before. The effect is devastating, in the best possible way."—Denver Post

"A beautiful meditation on brutality and culture, which are sometimes one and the same."—Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Hot Five" list

"THE APARTMENT is an exciting debut novel, and leaves one eager for Baxter's follow-up, whenever that may be."—The Daily Beast, Hot Reads

"It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time... It is very much to Baxter's credit that he presents this struggle as if it were thriller, love story, philosophical novel and dark comedy combined, in a novel not like a bullet but like an arrow flying straight to the heart of the matter."—Stacey D'Erasmo, New York Times Book Review

"This profound and perfectly paced novel worked such magic on me that by its final pages I felt simultaneously destroyed and revived."—Antoine Wilson, author of Panorama City

"The novel shines most in the telling-the slow, deliberate narrative unfolds like a quiet symphony, and Baxter's prose lingers inexplicably, like a beautifully sad song."—Publisher's Weekly

"Clever, entertaining, brave, it stretches the rules while following a man through one day of his life. I loved it."—Roddy Doyle

"A formally and thematically ambitious debut novel... Following the lead of James Joyce, Don Delillo and others, the novel takes place over the course of a single day in the life of its protagonist as he makes his way across an unnamed European city in search of the titular apartment...A very smart novel."—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"THE APARTMENT is the kind of novel that expands one's sense of what a novel can and ought to be and do. It is brave, captivating, formally innovative in a way that never seems showy or false, and with a tone perfectly balanced between poetic-factual deadpan and astringent wit-this book is a triumph from beginning to end."—Michael Griffith, author of Spikes and Trophy

"Exceptional--a book rich in ideas and poetry."—Hisham Matar, Man Booker Prize finalist for Country of Men

"Imagine you're on a roller-coaster ... suddenly, without warning, it tips vertiginously, so quickly that your chest constricts and while you're there, suspended, momentarily, at the apex of this roller-coaster, you're aware suddenly of a kind of clarity, a totally new perspective on everything below. Greg Baxter's THE APARTMENT is a bit like this ... Full of unshowy wisdom and surprising moments of beauty."—Sunday Telegraph

"Stunningly good."—Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

"Admirable for its scope, ambition and unashamed seriousness of purpose, as well as its willingness to take stylistic and structural risks."—Observer

"Baxter's superbly elegant, understated writing explores the dynamics of America's relationship with the rest of the world."—The Times
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve (December 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455574783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455574780
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While this book is literate and subtle, I kept thinking I should enjoy it more. The language is subtle and heavily symbolic. I think perhaps it is the very craft of writing that kept me removed from this character desperate for a new start in a secure place. The narrator has come from America to an unnamed European city after serving in Iraq. He engages tricks of perception to try to suppress memories as they emerge unwanted.

While the book remains vague in many senses in order to portray a universal search, at times this very vagueness can put the reader off. His determination to learn the city, its people and its language can be deeply depressing at points. This atmosphere is in fact an achievement of the author, but it makes me feel uneasy. I am aware that the book takes me to a designated sense, and I respect this. I am just not always willing to come for the ride. Nonetheless, this is a novel of note and one that deserves to be read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on December 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

Greg Baxter's debut novel, The Apartment, is a terrifically written, somewhat meandering book that both is and is not about what you think it is.

In an unnamed European city (although some reviewers have guessed this is Prague, Baxter said the novel's setting is an amalgamation of several different cities), an unnamed American narrator is planning to meet his friend, Saskia, to find him an apartment, as he had been living austerely in a formerly elegant hotel since he arrived. The narrator is in his early 40s, a former Navy sailor who had served on a submarine in Iraq and then returned to that country as a defense contractor. But he doesn't like to talk about the past, because of the things he did while he was in Iraq.

"I could fill the silence by talking about the past, but I try not to think about the past. For much of my life, I existed in a condition of regret that was contemporaneous with experience, and which sometimes preceded experience. Whenever I think of my past now I see a great black wave that has risen a thousand stories high and is suspended above above me, as though I am a city by the sea, and I hold the wave in suspension through a perspective that is as constrained as a streak of clear glass in a fogged-up window."

The novel takes place over a one-day period, although the narrator finds himself reminiscing on a number of encounters he has had with people throughout his life, both after arriving in this city and in his life before coming to the city. It is around Christmastime, and winter has the city in its thrall. Snow falls throughout the day.

The narrator and Saskia travel throughout the city, on foot as well as by train, bus, streetcar, and taxi.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John F. Leamons on December 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book about trying to escape oneself and not succeeding. You can read it at one sitting. When you've finished with it, it will not be finished with you.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Socrates on December 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book, reminds me of some the the best of Greene or Fitzgerald, while being quite distinctive and of the 21st century. Haven't read a book I've enjoyed so much in ages.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Vliegenthart on December 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sharp, intelligent, lonely.
24 hours only.
Best literary debut in years.
Iraq is hanging around us like a deep fog
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This slim novel takes place over the course of a very cold, snowy day in what vaguely feels like an old, Eastern European city. Our narrator is in search of an apartment in this city and he spends the day with Saskia, a young woman who is helping him find a place, as he doesn’t know the language or the layout.

Like many novels of this type, the “present day” action is minimal. Saskia comes to the hotel to pick-up the narrator. They travel the wintery streets, meeting a few of Saskia’s friends and having a few slight encounters. They look at an apartment which the narrator quickly takes. He moves in with his handful of possessions. They go meet a group of Saskia’s friends at a local hangout and stay until the wee hours, when they then leave, pointing their way towards breakfast and home. The end.

The interest of this story comes almost entirely from our position inside the mind of our narrator and what we learn of him as the story progresses. We get glimpses into his past—his roots in a small American desert town, his military service, his return to Iraq as an independent contractor, his brief turn as a wealthy American at home, his memories of a high school friend who died, his first months in his new city. We also get his impressions of Saskia, her friends, and his new surroundings.

Our impressions end up being somewhat unclear, the picture clouded much like the blowing snow softens the edges of the city through which these characters travel. And yet, it feels true, since our narrator is clearly adrift and has not come to terms with his life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mina on January 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Refreshing and mesmerizing like the first winter snow... Greg Baxter dared to be different and the ambition paid off.

The protagonist of The Apartment, a forty-one year old man with no name and no aim in life other than becoming invisible, moves from his 'desert' American hometown to an old European city, in the vain illusion of anonymizing himself and leave the dehumanizing experience of war behind. Serving in Iraq as a reservist first, and an intelligence contractor afterwards, can fill quite an emotional baggage, and one that follows the unnamed hero of this story like an extension of his body.

"Here in the city, intense joy and intense sorrow are extinct. The place is too old for that kind of naiveté". Blanketed under a coat of dazzling snow, sounds are muted, thoughts are temporarily numbed, time loses shape and is deceivingly suspended. Visions of the cold, still city at night, the cheerfulness and warmth of the Christmas markets are intensely beautiful, but sharply at odds with the mournful tone of his stream of consciousness. Through the unfiltered and relentless first person narration of the main character (no chapter or paragraph breaks), we are made privy to every random thought, emotion, memory conjured by his disconnected mind during a day spent house hunting. With an abundance of sensory information and a prose that is at the same time scant and appealing, basic background details are swallowed in the depths and folds of the story.
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