Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Book: Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: A

For: Random House ARC

When I got this book in the mail from Random House, I was very excited because it's by a big-time author, and though I've never read anything by him, I've wanted to for a long time. (specifically The March) So, because this particular book looked small, and easy, I felt good bumping it to the front of the line.

I knew absolutely NOTHING about the book, or it's subject. When I was a nearly done, I realized that this was actually based on a true story, the story of the Collyer brothers in New York. Anyone heard of them? Yeah, me neither. But after reading this story, I Googled and Wikipedia-ed and learned many interesting things about them.

So, this book is about these two brothers, Homer and Langley, and they live through many historical events. First, Langley goes off to fight in WWI and comes home sick from mustard gas. Meanwhile, Homer, because of reasons no one really understands, becomes blind. Eventually, all the people in their lives die or move away, and they are left to fend for themselves in this huge mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York. They both have some strange ideas about life, and as the years go on, they get stranger and stranger.

They suffer through WWII with the rest of the country. They enjoy the hippy/counter culture movement in their own way. They see man land on the moon. They live on and on through various major historical events. As they do so, they accumulate more and more stuff. Their biggest problem.... they never throw anything away.

So this is what they become famous for... their hoarding problem. Wow, what a story.

I would give you the link so you can learn more about them, BUT if you want to read the book (which comes out in September) and you haven't heard about these brothers before, you may want to avoid the spoilers. However, below I share with you a "for real" picture taken of a very very small part of their hoard.

Anyway, I totally loved it even though it's quite the sad and pathetic story. Doctorow's style is simple yet descriptive, one I really like. I hope to bump some of his other books to the top of the pile soon.

Question: Have you heard of these brothers before? And... did you get the book in the mail and if so, do you you plan on reading it soon?


  1. I've not heard of the brothers, but I *am* scared of EL Doctorow...

  2. I didn't read The March but my husband loved it, but I read most of his other books. I think his books are very readable. I haven't heard of these brothers so I would be more likely to read this book in order to learn about them. I didn't get an ARC but I know my husband at the very least will be wanting it when it becomes available. Thanks for the review!

  3. I want to read this book so much! I'm fascinated by the Collyer brothers. There's a nonfiction book about them called Ghosty Men and a 1954? novel based on their case called My Brother's Keeper, author Marcia Davenport.

  4. Doctorow is a great author! It's very cool that you were sent this book as an ARC. It sounds very interesting. I never heard of the Collyer brothers but "hoarding" is being talked about more and more. In the past 2 years I have seen a few specials about the syndrome and A&E is now running a weekly show on Obsessions and the last few episodes have been about hoarding.

  5. Wow, hoarding...amazing. I have not read any of this author's works...but this sounds like a good one for the WWII challenge.

    Thanks for another great review.

  6. I haven't heard of these brothers but Doctorow definitely has a creepy yet interesting writing style. I read The Waterworks for my "Literature of the Medical Gothic" class (Which was and *AWESOME* class) and it was amazing...super creepy but SO good. I keep meaning to read something else of his but just never get around to it. I'll put this one on the list though.

  7. This book will be going on my list. I have been fascinated by the brothers since I heard about them years ago. Thanks for the review!

  8. Wow! That's a ton of stuff in that picture! I've never heard of this book or the author actually... I'll have to try it out!

  9. Oh this looks interesting! Thanks for the review - I'm now on my library waiting list for this. I see my library also has the non-fiction book about the brothers (Ghostly Men). The only Doctorow I've read is Ragtime - it was OK, but I'd seen the movie which was pretty much exactly like the book.

    Thanks so much for the heads up on this one.

  10. Hmm. I'm not sure what I was expecting from the title and author .. but this wasn't it. I'm intrigued.

  11. I received this ARC unexpectedly, and it sounds like an interesting book. I know nothing about the brothers. Do you think the WWII aspect is enough to qualify for the challenge?

    Diary of an Eccentric

  12. Anna: I just realized I never answered your question about whether or not this would fit for the WWII challenge. I would say it's about a chapter's worth of stuff about WWII... but there's lots about WWI and Vietnam and a little about Korea too. So if you want a book that covers how war in general affects people, this would fit I'd say.

  13. EXCELLENT REVIEW. I have heard of the Collyer brothers, and can't wait to read this book. I wish I had received a copy of this one for review--lokks great.

    I've been watched that show: Hoarders on tv; very sad obsession really.

  14. The subject matter sounds interesting but I've read two of his other books and didn't like them (Ragtime and World's Fair)so I'm not sure if I'd like this.



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