Homer & Langley (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
In a city known for its tolerance of eccentric behavior, brothers Homer Lusk Collyer (1881-1947) and Langley Collyer (1885-1947) surely rank among the Manhattan’s strangest inhabitants. When the men were found dead in their Fifth Avenue mansion in 1947, authorities had to wade through tons of debris that the brothers had collected, and the structure itself had to be demolished. These brothers represent the antithesis of what most would consider “normal” behavior. Granted, isolation is a singular characteristic of modern existence, especially urban life. However, few would flee human society altogether while simultaneously building a mountain of its detritus. Stranger still, it would seem, is E. L. Doctorow’s decision to write a novel about the Collyers, Homer & Langley.
Doctorow is in familiar territory when it comes to interweaving the lives of fictional characters with the larger drama of historical events. In The March (2005), he explored the deeper meaning of racism in the context of the Civil War through the life of an African American woman. Nor does his use of his native New York as a backdrop represent a departure from past practice. His novel Ragtime (1975) won great acclaim for its lively depiction of New York City life in the years just before World War I and achieved even greater renown when it was adapted as a film. Doctorow seems determined to write about the Collyer brothers in order to affirm the old...
(The entire section is 1757 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Booklist 105, no. 21 (July 1, 2009): 8.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 15 (August 1, 2009): 25.
Library Journal 134, no. 13 (August 1 2009): 67.
The Nation 289, no. 11 (October 12, 2009): 31
New Criterion 28, no. 3 (November, 2009): 27-32.
The New York Review of Books 56, no. 20 (December 17, 2009): 34-36.
The New York Times, September 1, 2009, p. 1.
The New York Times Book Review, September 13, 2009, p. 7.
The New Yorker 85, no. 27 (September 7, 2009): 80-81.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 27 (July 6, 2009): 31.
The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2009, p. W7.
Weekly Standard 15, no. 8 (November 9, 2009): 32-33.
(The entire section is 65 words.)