Homer and Langley

Homer and Langley

A Novel

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From Ragtime and Billy Bathgate to The Book of Daniel, World's Fair, and The March , the novels of E. L. Doctorow comprise one of the most substantive achievements of modern American fiction. Now, with Homer & Langle y, this master novelist has once again created an unforgettable work.

Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers--the one blind and deeply intuitive, the other damaged into madness, or perhaps greatness, by mustard gas in the Great War. They live as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, scavenging the city streets for things they think they can use, hoarding the daily newspapers as research for Langley's proposed dateless newspaper whose reportage will be as prophecy. Yet the epic events of the century play out in the lives of the two brothers--wars, political movements, technological advances--and even though they want nothing more than to shut out the world, history seems to pass through their cluttered house in the persons of immigrants, prostitutes, society women, government agents, gangsters, jazz musicians . . . and their housebound lives are fraught with odyssean peril as they struggle to survive and create meaning for themselves.

Brilliantly conceived, gorgeously written, this mesmerizing narrative, a free imaginative rendering of the lives of New York's fabled Collyer brothers, is a family story with the resonance of myth, an astonishing masterwork unlike any that have come before from this great writer.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2009
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400064946
Characteristics: 208 p. ; 24 cm
Call Number: DOCTOROW, E


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Feb 14, 2018

Wonderful description and kooky characters kept me glued to this book. Sometimes I wanted to cry, and sometimes I laughed hysterically. It was not until afterward that I learned it was based on real people, although with much writer's license to exaggerate and elaborate. The character development and wild story-telling through the years was incredible.

Jul 16, 2015

Other Formats: CD, AD, SP, e-book.

sharonb122 Feb 13, 2014

Have never read Doctorow--think I felt intimidated! It was wonderful. I ate it up like candy and also was intrigued by the true story (but could not find a nonfiction on topic in our library system--will look again) The real characters are interesting anyway, but then Doctorow got into the mind of Homer in an extremely creative way. Even though I knew the ending, the whole novel was suspenseful. The way Doctorow wrote the ending...I was awe struck and I had to stop and just think about the whole story.

Mar 25, 2013

I really enjoyed this book. Despite the sometimes tragic situations described in this work, there is no heavy feeling, which is so typical of many books about life's burden. The book is written with a barely translucent but almost tangible sense of light humor. It is based on the Collyer brothers's life, but with deviations from the facts that is usual for historical fiction. Obsessive compulsive disorder - Hoarding, in the book, belongs to only one brother, who has devoted his whole life taking care of the blind and then deaf, brother. Though despite his physical disability, he didn't feel most of the time as a second range person. In spite of not an ordinary view of life and of behavior that goes beyond accepted norms, brothers, in the book, are generous, kind, smart, talented, caring people, who are trying to go with a time's progresses. Both of them leave a feeling of warmth and caring in people who have gone through their life, and who temporarily lived in their famous house.

Apr 10, 2012

This was a very interesting account of two eccentric, reclusive brothers living in the large house of their parents. One is blind and going deaf and one is possibly insane. There is no self pity here and much of their opinions I share myself! A very intelligent book that anyone can get into told from the perspective of one brother. Although I certainly would not want to end up as they did, I was very interested in their story.

Apr 25, 2011

April 2011 bookclub read

Dec 05, 2010

The story of two eccentric New York brothers who live through seven decades of American history. These brothers are not themselves of huge historical importance, but they were written instead as historical conduits of the world they lived in. They were reclusive, intelligent, independent, and obsessive collectors of the material objects in their world. Doctorow tells the reader the mythical lives of Homer and Langley Collyer. Homer, the narrator, is blind and his brother Langley was damaged by his experiences in World War I. They try to join the society around them for many years, but eventually they wall themselves off and repel the outside world. The telling of this evolution was at times funny, at times tragic, and eventually completely devastating.

I appreciated that Doctorow wrote this story from the inside of the brothers' lives instead of from the press who always presented them as a side show attraction. His writing shows the reader how to be sympathetic and gain an understanding that life's complications are not always how they appear to be on the surface.

Doctorow's writing is magnificent. It is simple, pure, and evokes deep emotion. The last few sentences of this book will leave you breathless.

Sep 13, 2010

I was a little disappointed that Doctorow extended the Collyer brothers lives into the sixties. No real reason for this anachronism. They died in 1947 and there was enough story and myth in their real life to make a satisfying fiction. Read The Ghosty Men for a factual account.


Add a Quote

Jun 02, 2013

“People my age are supposed to remember times long past through they can’t recall what happened yesterday”.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at DCL

To Top