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Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow Paperback – 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: by E. L. Doctorow (2009)
  • ASIN: B004HSS0US
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,677,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The novel titled, "Homer & Langley" (by E. L. Doctorow) is a fictionalized version of the lives of the Collyer brothers (the sons of an eccentric doctor) who (in real life) lived together in squalor in their New York City house, and were eventually found dead therein in 1947. In telling their story, Doctorow takes `poetic license' and extends the lives of the Collyer brothers into the 1980s.

The book is narrated by Homer, the younger of the two Collyer brothers. Homer relates how the brothers' personal lives started out favorably, and then gradually deteriorated over a period of decades. Homer (an accomplished classical pianist) suffers from blindness, and eventually deafness. Langley (who fights in World War I) becomes increasingly irrational (e.g., he hoards newspapers/documents, multiple pianos, and assorted junk; and he even builds and houses a Model-T in their dining room). As the brothers' lives deteriorate they become increasingly secluded, Homer becomes progressively dependent on Langley. Indicative of the extent of the brothers' seclusion/deterioration, Doctorow states, "Homer and Langley black-shuttered their windows, bolted their doors, and ran up thousands of dollars in unpaid bills even though they were worth millions." In telling this story, Doctorow relates various seminal events in the brothers' personal lives, against the backdrop of significant events happening in the outside world.

Typical seminal events affecting the Collyer brothers' personal lives include the following:
* Police Raid `Tea Dance' Hosted by the Collyer Brothers - In apparent revenge for being rebuffed in their attempt to shakedown the Collyer brothers, the police raided a `Tea Dance' being hosted by the Collyer brothers in their house in Harlem, New York during the Great Depression.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a strange book. It says novel on the title page, however
there was in real life a Homer and Langley Collyer. In real life
they were 5th Ave hoarders and they lived the life as depicted in
this novel. Homer was blind and Langley had been shell shocked
in WW1. The brothers were devoted to each other. As money got tight they
did with out, electricity, gas, water yet they continued to live in their mansion.
Homer was a muscian, and Langley was brilliant and went from one nutty plot to another.
They seemed never to consider getting a job. They died in their 60s, living
alone in that huge house.
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By SR on June 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I REALLY enjoyed this book. Until I picked it up, I had no idea of the true-life story of the Collyer brothers, and I waited until I had finished this book to investigate that. The whole hoarding part of the story is intriguing, of course. But what I really loved about this book was the way Doctorow "fleshed out" the relationship between Homer and Langley. It was so compelling, the way he described their individual personalities, their foibles, and the way they interacted with each other, as well as the cast of characters that meandered in and out of their house and their lives. Doctorow's description of Homer's inner life as a blind man slowly losing his hearing was heart-wrenching. I hung on every word. I also was captivated by Homer's insight into Langley's world view. Doctorow's writing is so masterful, my only disappointment was that it had to end.
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Format: Hardcover
Four years after publication, is a new appraisal of this book—a work of fiction, it should be noted—necessary? Probably not, but here goes: The reviewers heretofore (including Michiko Kakutani) have taken Doctorow to task for not being faithful in his time line, in various details. This is not a factual account, and Doctorow is doing here what is his wont: presenting the other (not necessarily contrarian) side to social, political, psychological situations. He takes on various departments of city government, some social groups, war, and so on. The brothers are fine vessels for the author's thoughts. The statements about music are scarcely profound, and there is one clear error: the citation of one of the 24 Chopin Preludes, opus 28, should be C Minor (not C-sharp Minor). The description of the piece points to this correction. Still, the book was short and nice to read, and the blind Homer's particular (if not poetic) voice was well maintained throughout.
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