Boulder City Magazine® June 2010 Issue
by Fran Haraway
Homer and Langley
by E. L. Doctorow
Homer and Langley live in that era which starts when Doctorow’s Ragtime stops - World War I and after. Homer, who went blind when he was a teenager, and his brother, Langley, who was gassed in the Great War and has never been the same, live in the elegant New York City (5th Avenue, no less!) home they inherited when their parents died of the Spanish flu.
Boulder City Magazine®
|After Homer’s brief fling with a housemaid, he and Langley become more and more reclusive, and the walls of the family home come to serve as their boundaries. That is the point at which the past meets the present, for Homer and Langley’s last name is Collyer, and the real Collyer brothers are among the most famous hoarders in American history.
Doctorow has taken a current pop culture obsession - hoarding - and used it to examine family relationships, the art of living, and most of all the evolving skill of being content with ourselves and our own quirks.
Homer, who narrates the tale, makes it clear that even though they are recluses, they can’t escape the outside world, nor do they want to. They know what’s happening because Langley buys all the daily papers - and never throws them away.
The world descends on the Collyers physically when first, a wounded New York gangster and his thugs use their house as a hideaway and next, a band of hippies make it their home for a time. Homer and Langley are entertained by it all.
Homer’s blindness means that he can’t see the junk as it piles up through the decades. He knows it’s there, but he considers Langley possessed of both brilliance and an impulsiveness bordering on derangement, and he’s proud of Langley’s eccentricities. Homer doesn’t mind the Model T in the living room one bit! As he becomes deaf however, Homer relies more on Langley, and Langley becomes more paranoid.
There is little documentation about the personalities of the real Collyer brothers, but the fictional ones bend the ways of the world to suit their own needs. They are a fascinating pair.
If you are interested in this book or would like to learn more, contact me at info@bouldercity magazine.com.
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