Apr 02 2010

Homer & Langley

Published by at 7:49 am under Books

by E. L. Doctorow

This book of historical fiction is loosely based on the eccentric Collyer brother who lived and died in NYC in the early to mid 20th century. The basic idea for the story is the Collyer brothers, but Doctorow extends the time period and broadly imagines the lives of the brothers. His version is told by Homer who becomes blind as a young man and is supposedly typing the tale on a braille typewriter. Homer’s viewpoint and concerns are well developed and he seems quite real as a person. Langley is mainly present as an aid and instigator of external conflict.
This relatively short book tells a version that is part black comedy, and part tragedy. Doctorow uses the story to note and comment on some of the notable aspects of the 20th century: wars, atrocities, blackouts, Vietnam, hippies…. Interesting, but not great. Well written, probably not very interesting for anyone under the age of 40 or so.

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