Suzanne's Reviews > Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders: An Urban Historical

Ghosty Men by Franz Lidz
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Mar 05, 12

bookshelves: read-in-2012, nonfiction
Read on March 05, 2012

This popped up as a 99c Kindle Daily Deal and I picked it up because I love stories of obsession, I find hoarding fascinating, and I'd never heard of the Collyer brothers. How could I resist? Unfortunately, the book just ended up being frustrating.

First of all, the title I bought at Amazon was Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders, An Urban Historical -- note the lack of Uncle Arthur, who appears in the GoodReads title. There is a lot of Uncle Arthur in this book. I suppose I can't begrudge the author threading in anecdotes about his junk-collecting uncle, but the Collyer story was what I wanted to read. It's not a very long book, so both stories ended up feeling thin. The historical stuff about Harlem is also superficial at best.

Second, the writing left something to be desired. Some of it was just unevenness of tone. Sure, there's some humor inherent in the things these people collected, but other times, the jokes left me rolling my eyes. "Susie's boys were Oedipal wrecks who could hardly peek out from beneath her Freudian slip." *groan* There were also some sloppy grammatical problems. For example, the author is fond of beginning sentences with conjunctions even if he could naturally connect them with the sentence before with a comma. It's just a peeve of mine, perhaps, but it bugged me every time.

Third, formatting problems galore. I don't mind if e-books aren't perfect when they're free and prepared by volunteers. When I buy an e-book from a publisher, however, I expect it to have at least been proofread. There were lots of miscellaneous spaces, sometimes splitting words and making sentences confusing to parse at first. In one spot, I reread a sentence 3-4 times before realizing it meant hermits and not "her mits," as printed.

Then, there was this exchange:

"I'm not going to a flea circus, not me," Sandy said.
"7 am," I said.


Huh? I guess that was supposed to be "I", maybe italicized?

One chapter opens with the NY Times headline announcing one of the brothers' deaths: "HOMER COLLYER, HARLEM RECLUSE, FOUND DEAD AT JO."

"At Jo?" Where is "Jo?" The next paragraph explains that he was actually 65 and that one of the other newspapers had gotten that right. Oh, I guess it is "At 70?"

There are also paragraph breaks in the middles of sentences, random hyphenations where there must have been line breaks in the print version, and ....arrrgh.... it just made me more and more annoyed. And then I had to read his Uncle Leo's poetry? *sigh*

Two stars feels like a generous rating, but I did only pay 99 cents for it, so I will cut it some slack. Plus, it seems to be one of the few books out there about the Collyers. I'm surprised to see wikipedia call this book "the definitive history of the Collyers," but maybe there really isn't much more?
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