Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow

Homer & Langley

by E. L. Doctorow

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,307None6,044 (3.77)121
  1. 20
    Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: another strong novel of fraternal love
  2. 00
    My Brother's Keeper by Marcia Davenport (sloreck)
    sloreck: Different take on same true story

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 121 mentions

English (99)  Danish (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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 |
I found this to be a quick read and enjoyable. There were certain parts I really enjoyed (loved the hippies). It was fascinating to me that even secluded the brothers experienced a change of times through the home. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
Read it on a whim, then listened to it on Audiobook many years later. The ending still gave me the chills. It can feel like it's plodding along, but in it's way that's just how Homer (the narrator) is, how he lives life, how he sees life: plodding along and just letting it happen to him. ( )
  onemoreday | Jan 28, 2014 |
I read this for a book club. I enjoyed the book and liked reading it overall, but I was disappointed by the ending. The book shows selections from American history through the objects and occupants of the home. ( )
  RKoletteL | Dec 29, 2013 |
Homer and Langley have entered the canon of American folklore in a way that few other eccentrics have. Books have been written about them (we all know the kind, best described as “salacious” or “tell-all”), they have been turned into lurid objects of intrigue, almost wholly with little respect for their humanity or the forces that shaped them into the kinds of people they were. Doctorow’s project is different. He is interested in the historical forces that made Homer and Langley, not the sensationalizing journalism that turns them into “hoarders,” a word that thankfully doesn’t even appear in the novel.

After Langley returns from World War I shell shocked, he learns what Homer has known for a while: both of their parents have succumb to the Spanish Flu. Their parents left them a four-story brownstone and an income is never disclosed, but through ingenuity they do well for themselves. They host a series of public dances for the community’s benefit. As time wears on, Langley starts to become increasing paranoid about the household finances, even challenging the utilities companies and the bank who holds the house to come and get what they’re owed from him personally. This is when his collections of books, musical instruments, automobiles, and other material all started to appear.

Throughout the book, both brothers but especially Homer encounter romantic attachments that never blossom. Doctorow draws Langley as a more aloof figure, but I really, truly, deeply felt Homer’s need for love and affection. Maybe like Tiresias his blindness conferred upon him another, greater kind of sight – of innocence, love, and companionship, all of which Langley wanted nothing to do with. All I can really say here is that Homer’s disappointments were heartbreaking for me as a reader.

E. L. Doctorow is as fascinated with American history as Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon are with American hysteria. Though this is only my second Doctorow novel (the first was “The City of God,” which I don’t remember much about at all), but it seems that much of his work is crafted in such a way as to have the reader feel that history is actually running past, or even though, you. The effect of this can be both enchanting and disorienting. Doctorow extends their lifetimes by several decades (they both died in 1947) so that we read of them speaking about the moon landing and Jonestown. This is partially what I mean by disorienting. I realize that this is a work of fiction, but this need to extend their lives by more than a generation seemed like an odd, out-of-place decision. I felt that there was plenty of fascinating history to deal with before the date of their real deaths to not have to turn them into centenarians.

On the whole, this was an empathetic portrayal of two people whose historiographies were in dire need of empathy, and I appreciate that. There is something about the overall execution of the novel that I can’t quite put my finger on that leaves me, on the whole, not as moved as I felt I should have been, despite Langley’s experiences in the War and Homer’s failures in love. I’m curious to know what readers of other Doctorow novels think compared to this, or if they can even be compared. ( )
  kant1066 | Oct 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (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.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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)
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

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]
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

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)

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
6 avail.
182 wanted
7 pay4 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.77)
1 4
1.5 3
2 15
2.5 9
3 83
3.5 58
4 143
4.5 24
5 69


Three editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Hyperion and Voice

An edition of this book was published by Hyperion and Voice.

» Publisher information page

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 89,476,360 books! | Top bar: Always visible