Nick Richtsmeier's Reviews > Homer & Langley

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
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's review
Aug 03, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2009

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 oddly winsome, for being the fictionalized tale of the two true-to-life recluses: Homer and Langley Collyer. From behind the shuttered windows of their 5th avenue mansion they decay internally, until--like the ceiling full of vermin--their uglier and darker parts bulge from introspection and self-involvment.
Besides being a brilliant and subtle work, this book is a cautionary tale for the modern age. It is a reminder that while none of us (or few of us) have locked ourselves up in Central Parkside mansions, we are all caving internal, retreating to our ideological corners, and litereally losing our senses, unable to see our hear what is happening around us. It is a reminder that in a world increasingly more connected by falsehood and disconnected from the human truths within us, we are all in danger of living the lives of the brothers Collyer: collecting trinkets from a life we've never lived, planning a grand contribution for a world that will never exist.
What a gift from Doctorow, to subtly and nautiously remind us how close we are to the steps of madness. Hopefully the power company comes soon to knock on our door.
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