Another in a long line of books I chose to read because it was short. I fell way behind on my reading goal this year, due to a crazy amount of anxiety that disrupted my routines and caused me to select books that had fewer pages. Fortunately, I buy good books. This book was called “A sweeping masterpiece about the infamous New York hermits, the Collyer brothers,” by Publishers Weekly. The Boston Globe said the book is “one of literature’s most unlikely picaresques in which the rogue heroes can’t seem to leave home.”
So, the story is based on two real-life brothers who live in a once grand Fifth Avenue mansion. (The real brothers were hoarders found dead in their home in 1947. They were HOARDERS. After finding Homer’s body, it took weeks to find Langley, even though his body was 10 feet away from Homer’s. Langley was hidden under a booby trap he had set. There was 100 tons of stuff removed after their deaths from their home.)
This book imagines their world.
“But Doctorow considers the Collyer’s in a less lurid fashion, casting them as sympathetic, if eccentric, players in the drama of the departed American century — sepia-tone figures in an elegiac zoetrope … Mercifully, Doctorow’s Collyer’s are much more than a couple of Zeligs with O.C.D.” – The New York Times
Homer is blind and he serves as the narrator, so you are getting a very unique perspective of events. Langley, who suffers after getting gassed serving in WWI, begins accumulating newspapers of historic events by categories, historic slots. The pair do not leave home, but somehow the world over the decades comes to visit them in their stately manor – feels a little like Forrest Gump – from the Great Depression to Vietnam.
The author, E.L. Doctorow, was given a series of lifetime achievement awards in 2012-2014: PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2012), American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Fiction (2013), and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Doctorow died in 2015.