M.K. Hobson's Reviews > Homer & Langley

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
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's review
Aug 30, 10

Read from August 23 to 24, 2010

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, as I generally do with all E.L. Doctorow books. The language was beautiful, the pacing was lyrical, and the historical details immersive. All that being said, I'm a bit puzzled as to why Doctorow chose to deviate from the true story of Homer and Langley Collyer as much as he did. He switched their birth order, made Homer the piano player instead of Langley, and (most egregiously) kept them alive well into the 1970s, when in point of fact they died in the mid-1940s.

I guess the story that Doctorow wanted to tell couldn't be made to fit the actual facts of the brothers' lives. But if that was the case, why use them at all ... why not use a couple of fictionalized brothers *based* on the Collyers? It seems like Doctorow was trying to have his cake and eat it too, and it just didn't work for me.

What did work for me was the depiction of Langley's hoarding behavior and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Homer's reaction to it. I thought Langley was by far the most interesting character in the book, but I never felt like we got to spend enough time with him. I am in awe of the challenge Doctorow set himself with a blind protagonist (who eventually goes deaf as well!) but it left me feeling quite distant from the rest of the world Doctorow built, when I really wished I could have gone deeper into it. Definitely not as weighty as some of Doctorow's other works like Ragtime or The Waterworks. But an enjoyable read nonetheless.

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