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Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow

Homer & Langley

by E. L. Doctorow

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1,3511075,697 (3.75)130
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English (103)  Danish (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (107)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
brothers, New York City, blindness, historical fiction, hoarding ( )
  rowen1 | Dec 22, 2014 |
I think a good deal of the reason I got so behind in reviewing my books is my reluctance to write about this one. There was a fair amount of pressure to do so -- I got this book free as a part of a publicity giveaway in advance of publication, and they even followed up with a postcard to remind me to post a review (before I'd even read the book.) So, dutifully I moved the book to the top of my to-read pile, finished it fairly quickly, then... stalled.

I simply have no strong opinions on this book. I enjoyed it enough to read quickly, yet was almost always conscious that if this book hadn't been free, I never would have read it. Based on real life peole (which I actually didn't realize while reading it), it tells the stories of two brothers who become increasingly cut off from the world, Homer by blindness and Langley by his bitterness caused by his wartime experience. They hole up in their massive house (left to them by their parents) in New York City, interacting with outsiders only rarely (but usually very memorably), and slowly boxing themselves in with Langley's growing compulsion to collect and hoard.

Now, I have some hoarding compulsions myself, but I was never able to really connect with Langley. And while the novel said some interesting things about the value of community, they were said rather obliquely, and were never in focus. So, to the reader with no previous exposure to the Collyer brothers legend, what was the point? ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
Very enjoyable read! The one thing I really didn't understand was why they had a mortgage after living in the house their entire lives....even a thirty year mortgage should have been paid off by circa WWII. Still, a wonderful book, full of insight, character, and anti-war/government loathing. ( )
  untraveller | Aug 12, 2014 |
I'm a huge fan of E.L. Doctorow, but I'm at a loss to explain the mess that is "Homer and Langley". I've tried to write this review several times and each revision is more disgusted than the previous. I'm not going to put any more effort into it, just as you shouldn't put any effort into reading this glorification of a blind second-rate Forrest Gump who revels in the filth and decay that is 50 years of hoarding. The narrator literally and figuratively stumbles blindly through life and even the payoff at the end of the novel wasn't enough to offset the atrocious 150 page setup. ( )
  sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
Great, great book. This is the first Doctorow book I've read, and it definitely will not be the last. It's short, but reads like an epic novel, managing to chronicle the events of the 20th century while telling a sad but touching tale of brotherly love. Doctorow tells the story of the Collyer brothers through the "eyes" of the blind Homer. The book is made even greater by Doctorow's ability to place the reader both as an observer and in the shoes of Homer, so that the reader experiences not only the vivid imagery of the book, but also the heightening of other senses that comes with complete darkness. ( )
  joyhclark | Mar 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
This is Forrest Gump by way of Ecclesiastes, a sustained lament over the futility of human endeavor.
added by Shortride | editEsquire, Benjamin Alsup (Sep 30, 2009)
The achievement of Doctorow’s masterly, compassionate double portrait is that it succeeds for 200 pages in suspending the snigger, elevating the Collyers beyond caricature and turning them into creatures of their times instead of figures of fun.
I’m not sure “Homer & Langley” will stand as one of Doctorow’s best, but the story of two brothers united by their imaginations and disabilities ends up being a poignant one – rats, cockroaches, and all – and the ending has striking power.
Doctorow’s biggest weakness as a storyteller is his urge to act as a docent at the New York Historical Society. The inner life he gives to Homer is desultory – apart from a few brief love affairs, Homer’s days are marked by boredom and decline. To be additionally saddled with a grandfatherly tendency to long-windedness is a trait the novel can’t recover from.
A slight, unsatisfying, Poe-like story that turns out to be a study in morbid psychology.
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To Kate Medina
First words
I am Homer, the blind brother.
Jsem Homer, ten slepý bratr.
...umírají neviňátka, nikoli ti, kdo se už narodili silní, protože bez iluzí. (s. 18)
... byl dost mladý, aby věřil, že svět k němu bude fér, jen když on bude tvrdě pracovat, ze všech sil se snažit a dávat do hudby celé srdce. (s. 49)
Jedna z JoJových mizerně zpívaných písní mě zaujala. Začínala "Dobrejtro, lžičko". Debatovali sme o tom s Langleym. On si myslel, že vypovídá o osamělosti vypravěče, který ironicky oslovuje svůj příbor. Nesouhlasil jsem. Já jsem tvrdil, že mluvčí hovoří na svou pravděpodobně drobnou milenku, která se s ním ráno probouzí, a že lžička je prostě něžnůstka. (s. 117)
Jediná napínavá věc pro mě byla, kolik Lissiných blábolů budu muset vyslechnout cestou k nevyhnutelnému. (s. 118)
Dnes letí elektrifikovaní hudebníci, kteří si dávají existencialistická jména a přitahují rozsáhlé publikum lidí o něco mladších než oni, kteří by sami také moc rádi škubali pánví a ječeli a častovali tou uši rvoucí hudbou stadiony plné idiotů. (s. 122)
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Book description
Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers–the one blind and deeply intuitive, the other damaged into madness, or perhaps greatness, by mustard gas in the Great War. They live as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, scavenging the city streets for things they think they can use, hoarding the daily newspapers as research for Langley’s proposed dateless newspaper whose reportage will be as prophecy. Yet the epic events of the century play out in the lives of the two brothers–wars, political movements, technological advances–and even though they want nothing more than to shut out the world, history seems to pass through their cluttered house in the persons of immigrants, prostitutes, society women, government agents, gangsters, jazz musicians . . . and their housebound lives are fraught with odyssean peril as they struggle to survive and create meaning for themselves.

Brilliantly conceived, gorgeously written, this mesmerizing narrative, a free imaginative rendering of the lives of New York’s fabled Collyer brothers, is a family story with the resonance of myth, an astonishing masterwork unlike any that have come before from this great writer.

[retrieved May 23, 2013 from Amazon.com]
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A free imaginative rendering of the lives of New York's fabled Collyer brothers depicts Homer and Langley as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, facing odyssean perils as they struggle to survive the wars, political movements, and technological advances of the last century.… (more)

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