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Homer & Langley

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  6,851 ratings  ·  1,381 reviews
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 w ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2009)
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Oct 20, 2009 Cassy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cassy by: Houston's Inprint Reading Series
I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by E. L. Doctorow where he read from “Homer and Langley” and was interviewed onstage. He joked that the story of the Collyer brothers had become an American myth and that, as with all myths, one does not need to research, only interpret.

This book is essentially the rambling of an old, blind man, Homer as he reflects back on his life spent with his trusty brother, Langley in their family’s mansion in New York City. The book doesn’t have chapters or parts. I
Jennifer D
Dec 25, 2010 Jennifer D rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Quirky People
Well, this book is absolutely beautiful. I am still thinking about what I want to say about Homer & Langley, while simultaneously composing a letter to E.L. Doctorow in my head. I felt this novel deeply and I am marveling at Doctorow's ability with words and language which activate the senses while creating images that linger.

More of a review to come.

Okay, so after pondering for a couple of days, here is what I have come up with:

This novel was released in 2009, but just this past fall, the
Bob Redmond
Doctorow's books, at least the two that I've read, proceed so patiently that you almost get bored. Perhaps in the same way that one might get "bored" watching an elephant or great blue heron: a thing of slow beauty.

So the story doesn't move like an episode of "24." It's OK. Doctorow is eating you all the while, a python novelist wrapping himself around you until one little squeeze will do you in. The last four short sentences of HOMER & LANGLEY, for instance (like the final chapters of WORLD
Jul 28, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chloe by: Goodreads Firstreads
Shelves: fiction
There's something both alluring and repulsive about compulsive hoarders. Once, a few years ago, I had to help clean out the house of one of my in-laws’ neighbors who had just died. Entering the man’s house was like stepping into an Egyptian tomb; relics from countless eras stacked methodically to the ceiling, knick knacks piled haphazardly in corners and on top of the mantle. Moving around was limited by the small pathways the man had carved through his treasures, though they were not so much pa ...more
Will Byrnes
The bachelor Collyer brothers, of a respected family, were reclusive hoarders who lived in a Manhattan brownstone. After their bodies were found in 1947 more than a hundred tons of trash was removed from their house. Doctorow has taken the historical pair and put them to other uses. He looks at a wide swath of 20th century American history through the windows of their Fifth Avenue house, extending their lives beyond 1947, swapping some details between the brothers, and tossing in a cast of illus ...more
David Lentz
E.L. Doctorow is a wonder among living American novelists and in "H&L" he offers much to contemplate in his historical novel about the evolution of two wounded brothers and the New York in which they reside. Homer, as the classical name suggests, is a contemporary blind writer who relies upon his sighted brother Langley, wounded by mustard gas in WWI. They evolve into nearly total recluses living in a once stately manse across 5th Avenue from Central Park. The times, they are a-changing and ...more
I understand Doctorow is writing fiction; hell, I love his blending of reality and fictional fantasy in Ragtime. However, the real life of the Collyer brothers is so interesting and heartbreaking it doesn't need thirty extra years, various young women and other devices out of the writer's toolbox. This book has a hollow feeling at its core, completely unlike the stuffed-to-the-cornices Collyer mansion on New York City's Fifth Avenue. Homer and Langley (for whatever unnecessary reason, at least t ...more
Doctorow vuelve a darnos una clase magistral de cómo recrear la historia. Partiendo de un hecho verídico, el del descubrimiento de los cuerpos de los hermanos Collyer en su mansión de la Quinta Avenida en Manhattan, Doctorow nos relata su versión de cómo podrían haber llegado a ese estado. O más bien, en palabras del propio autor: "Como mitos que son, los hermanos Collyer requerían no que se investigara sobre ellos sino que se les interpretara."



La historia está narrada por Homer Collyer, el herm
Meg M
This book presses in on me. In a bad way, like walls closing in. I finished it an hour ago, tossed it on the nightstand and turned out the light. And I couldn't sleep; all I could think was how scary and wrong and inevitable the ending was. I close my eyes and see the world through Langley's mad eyes and then my own eyes fly open again. It's keeping me up tonight, this tale of two brothers. I didn't like the story. I didn't like the constant invasion of space that heaped up throughout the book. ...more
João Carlos
O escritor norte-americano E. L. Doctorow publicou em 2009 o romance “Homer & Langley” baseado na história verídica dos irmãos Collyer, reclusos na sua mansão na Quinta Avenida, Nova Iorque, e que foram encontrados mortos e soterrados em mais de 140 toneladas de lixo e de outros objectos.
Homer é o narrador, o irmão cego, que perdeu a vista lentamente no final da adolescência, - “foi uma sorte ter-me acontecido quando era tão novo, sem consciência de ser deficiente” - mas que adquiriu qualida
Blake Fraina
I was very intrigued to discover that successful author E.L. Doctorow had written a novel about the infamous Collyer brothers. If you’re not familiar with their story, they were New York City socialites who became obsessive hoarders and recluses, eventually dying in the squalid remains of their once fabulous uptown townhouse.

The author plays fast and loose with the details of the Collyer’s lives – chiefly by letting them survive through almost the entire Twentieth Century - as opposed to chronic
When I was lamenting that I hadn't found a five-star book last year, a close friend insisted that I was wrong. She reminded me how much I loved this book. She's right. Homer and Langley Collyer were five-star characters for me. From the outside, Homer and Langley would appear to languish in the throes of mental illness, hoarding and isolation. But Doctorow manages to create meaning and poignancy out of out of the clutter, chaos and overwhelming darkness of the Collyer brothers' lives. These are ...more
It was a pleasant diversion reading this book. Doctorow has created a fictionalized tale of the Collyer brothers, who lived their lives in solitude in a once elaborate brownstone in NY. They were found dead in 1947 and much publicity evolved from the horrifying state of their much decayed living quarters.During their lives there they had managed to accumulate mountains of things, from a Model T in their dining room, to monstrous piles of newspapers and a multitude of incredible objects. Doctorow ...more
Charles Matthews
Doctorow has taken a true story, that of a pair of eccentric recluses who lived in accumulating disorder, and fictionalized it effectively. He extends the lifespan of the real Collyer brothers, who died in 1947, into the 1970s, and tinkers with other details, such as the birth order of the brothers (Homer was in fact the elder) and the onset of Homer's blindness, which happened much later in his life. The story is told from Homer's point of view, evoking the other legendary blind Homer.

The nove
Sep 12, 2009 Bill rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Doctorow or quirky fiction
Shelves: fiction, lit-fiction
Excellent novel by a great writer. It's about 2 eccentric brothers living in New York City, who gradually become more and more reclusive as their house becomes completely full of stuff. They even have a Ford Motel T in the dining room! All in all avery good read, and quick too, as it's only 208 pages.
Doctorow’s fictionalized account of real-life brothers, Homer & Langley Collyer is touching, sad and sometimes humorous. The shy brother is musically talented and invites ladies to concerts he gives in his home as a novel way to meet them; the other brother is scientifically oriented, always creating one odd gadget or other. Plus, he is obsessed with current events leading to his idea of creating only one newspaper...the only newspaper that will ever need to be printed since events repeat th ...more
Sep 18, 2010 Angela rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Angela by: mcsweeney's review
The believable aspects in this fictionalized story about the life of the Collyer brothers have been changed to provide a better narrative flow to the novel; it's the bits that seem like impossible-to-believe madness that are documented historical facts. Doctorow follows the maze of Homer and brother Langley's descent into isolation and madness, time-shifting the brothers so that their story is the story of the 20th century, starting with an event so horrible it triggers Langley's madness (WWI) a ...more
Homer and Langley Collyer were real people – notorious recluses who died in their shuttered, crumbling New York City brownstone in 1947, buried, literally, under 100 tons of newspapers and every conceivable kind of junk, including a Model T Ford. Their story has been told or borrowed from before, in novels, on the stage and on film. We should be grateful that E. L. Doctorow, an acclaimed novelist since the 1960's, has decided to tell it again.

Doctorow has often used historical figures in his fic
John David
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 sensati ...more
Nick Richtsmeier
What an entrancement. What an excursion into madness that Doctorow takes us on. All the more dangerous because the maddening characters are only barely mad, and the outward signs of their sickness are masked by the sparse details of their visible world we are given, because we see it through the eyes of a blind man.
Homer and Langley is the most internal the most painfully chlostrophobic of Doctorow's books. It's neither dense nor epic in the way of Ragtime or World's Fair. It's insular and oddl
What the hell, E.L.?
I read E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime as a teenager and was enthralled. Reading Homer & Langley led me to wonder if he’s become a terrible writer over the years or if my adolescent literary sensitivities simply not as developed as I like to believe. This novel, which is loosely based on the lives of a couple of Manhattan crazies, is a Forest-Gump-style survey of the 20th century, but without even the questionable charm of Tom Hanks’s goofy fish-lips to keep it going. That gimmic
This is the story of the Collyer brothers as told by Homer Collyer. Homer is blind and Langley is disabled to a degree from mustard gas in WWI. Over the years, they become notoriously reclusive in their Fifth Avenue home. In addition, they because hoarders over time, as Langley collected all daily newspapers for a project he wanted to create (a sort of super paper), then it started being junk, musical instruments, a model T ford in their dining room. People did come and go through their lives, b ...more
I feel like i just read a 500 page book. The number of pages of this short novel is deceptive. Doctorow managed to squish nearly a century of American history as experienced by two brothers into 200 pages. Although the narrative does not come across as a history lesson, the reader (or at least me) feels nearly every moment of the 20th century. The story isn't really about history though; events are just the backdrop. The story is how these two men, alone in the world, care for one another--one b ...more
After reading this macabre story about the Collyer brothers, I discovered that it was based on true fact and shocked me even more!
A lurid tale about two rich, reclusive bachelors who lived together in New York, compulsively hoarding junk on a gargantuan scale and who were found buried under their own debris in 1947 - unbelievable but true!
And so well told - Doctorow transforms this story into a history of the 20th Century and compassionately tells the story of 2 eccentric brothers - through thei
Wonderful book. Read it in a day.

I gave always been fascinated by 'hoarders' before I even knew what they were. There was a woman in a nearby town, whose house I often passed while driving, who kept a long row of 'stuff' down both sides of her front walkway. This stuff was covered by pieces of canvas, and I'd often see her walking up and down the front walk adjusting the canvas covers. I had no idea what was going on - I honestly thought she kept firewood out there, maybe. Then I saw her no mor
Marius van Blerck
What a pleasure this book was! After 3 duds last week, this one was a gem. I listened to the audiobook, and really liked the way Arthur Morey did the narration - first time I've heard his work. He contrasted the two brothers perfectly. The story is both simple and complex, and the imagery is vivid, as with all the Doctorow books I've read so far. The story is an emotional journey, with loads of humour and touches of sadness. It also has a delightful absurdist streak. Made my week!
Clearly I need to read more novels with blind protagonists. So many sounds, aromas, tactile descriptions - I kept trying to catch implausibilities, but that Doctorow! - he knows what he's doing. (And it helps that your blind character has been sighted in earlier life.) I didn't know much about the real Collyer brothers, so this was a purely fictional trip through the 20th-c for me. Liked, but wasn't blown away.
John Gorman
E.L takes poetic license with his historical fiction. My Homburg goes off to him. I latched onto Homer & Langley after reading a few books on collecting, most notably Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson. As you may already be familiar, Homer & Langley is based upon the eccentric Collyer brothers who were notorious for their hoarding. They had bales of newspapers stacked higgledy-piggledy throughout their townhouse. They had booby traps aplenty and kept a Ford Model T in the dining room under ...more
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I've read enough memoirs to be able to say that "Homer Collyer", the narrator of this novel, definitely doesn't write like someone who was born in 1881 (when the real Homer Collyer was). To be sure, E. L. Doctorow has distorted the timeline of this story in an unrealistic manner, extending the brothers' lives into the 1970s instead of the 1940s. That doesn't excuse the frequent blandness of the writing, though. It's a novel about history, and you'd expect there to be historical specificity to it ...more
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E. L. DOCTOROW’S works of fiction include Homer & Langley,The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, the Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidential ...more
More about E.L. Doctorow...
Ragtime The March Billy Bathgate The Book of Daniel World's Fair

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“There is music in words, and it can be heard you know, by thinking.” 51 likes
“Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.” 6 likes
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