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 & Langley, 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.
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Amazon Exclusive: E.L. Doctorow on Homer & Langley
E. L. Doctorow's novels include The March, City of God, The Waterworks, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World's Fair, and Billy Bathgate. His work has been published in thirty-two languages. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow lives in New York. Read his exclusive Amazon essay on Homer & Langley:
I was a teenager when the Collyer brothers were found dead in their Fifth Avenue brownstone. Instantly, they were folklore. And so there is the real historical existence of them and the mythological existence--two existences, as with Abe Lincoln, though of a less exalted standing. I didn’t know at the time that I would someday write about them, but even then I felt there was some secret to the Collyers--there was something about them still to be discovered under the piles of things in their house--the bales of newspapers and the accumulated detritus of their lives. Was it only that they were junk-collecting eccentrics? You see that every day in the streets of New York. They had opted out--that was the primary fact. Coming from a well-to-do family, with every advantage, they had locked the door and closed the shutters and absented themselves from the life around them. A major move, as life-transforming as emigration. In fact it was a form of emigration, of leave-taking. But where to? What country was within that house? What would have caused them to become the notorious recluses of Fifth Avenue? As myths, the brothers demanded not research but interpretation, and when a few years ago I was finally moved to do this book, I felt as if writing it was an act of breaking and entering just to see what may have been going on in that house, which really meant getting inside two very interesting minds. And with the first sentence, “I’m Homer, the blind brother,” I was in.
In one sense I think of Homer & Langley as a road novel--as if they are two people traveling together down a road and having adventures, though in fact they are housebound. It turns out that the world will not let them alone--others intrude on their privacy as if it is the road running through them. As for their collecting, I think of them as curators of their life and times, and their house as a museum of all our lives. That is my idea of them, that is my reading of the Collyer myth. I make them to be two brothers who opted out of civilization and pulled the world in after them.--E.L. Doctorow
(Photo © Philip Friedman)About the Author:
E. L. Doctorow’s novels include The March, City of God, The Waterworks, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World’s Fair, and Billy Bathgate. His work has been published in thirty-two languages. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow lives in New York.
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Book Description Random House, 2009. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "Doctorow, whose literary trophy shelf has got to be overflowing by now, delivers a small but sweeping masterpiece about the infamous New York hermits, the Collyer brothers. When WWI hits and the Spanish flu pandemic kills Homer and Langley's parents, Langley, the elder, goes to war, with his Columbia education and his godlike immunity to such an ordinary fate as death in a war. Homer, alone and going blind, faces a world considerably dimmed, though more deliciously felt by his other senses. When Langley returns, real darkness descends on the eccentric orphans: inside their shuttered Fifth Avenue mansion, Langley hoards newspaper clippings and starts innumerable science projects, each eventually abandoned, though he continues to imagine them in increasingly bizarre ways, which he then recites to Homer. Occasionally, outsiders wander through the house, exposing it as a living museum of artifacts, Americana, obscurity and simmering madness. Doctorow's achievement is in not undermining the dignity of two brothers who share a lush landscape built on imagination and incapacities. It's a feat of distillation, vision and sympathy." Publishers Weekly,starred review "Following the panoramic scope of The March (2005), Doctorow creates a microcosmic and mythic tale of compulsion, alienation, and dark metamorphosis inspired by the famously eccentric Collyer brothers of New York City. Born to wealth in the 1880s, Homer and Langley became recluses and hoarders barricaded inside their Fifth Avenue brownstone, which was crammed with more than 100 tons of moldering junk. Altering facts and tinkering with time, Doctorow has Homer, who is blind, narrate with deadpan humor and spellbinding precision. Homer is devoted to music, and his brother is devoted to him, but Langley, offkilter after a gas attack in the Great War, is beyond strange. He rebuilds a Model T in the dining room, collects everything from pianos to army surplus, and amasses newspapers to assemble a forevermore edition, Doctorow's sly enactment of the fall of print and the rise of the Internet, a realm as chaotic and trash-filled as the Collyer mansion. Over the decades, people come and go---lovers, a gangster, a jazz musician, a flock of hippies, but finally Homer and Langley are irrevocably alone, prisoners in their fortress of rubbish, trapped in their warped form of brotherly love. Wizardly Doctorow presents an ingenious, haunting odyssey that unfolds within a labyrinth built out of the detritus of war and excess." Booklist, starred review. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_1400064945
Book Description Random House, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1400064945
Book Description Random House, New York, U.S.A., 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. First Edition, with correct number line sequence, no writing, marks, underlining, or bookplates. No remainder marks. Spine is tight and crisp. Boards are flat and true and the corners are square. Dust jacket is not price-clipped. This collectible, " NEW" condition first edition/first printing copy is protected with a polyester archival dust jacket cover. Beautiful collectible copy. GIFT QUALITY. Bookseller Inventory # 001678
Book Description Random House September 2009, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 20090908161489
Book Description Random House, New York, NY, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. Random House, 2009, Hardcover. First edition and SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR. Book condition is NEW and dust jacket condition is NEW. A great collectible copy, or maybe a gift for someone. Book opened only for the author to sign. First edition and signed by the author. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 000103
Book Description Random House, 2009. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. No Jacket. 1st Edition. AUTHOR SIGNED ADVANCE READING COPY thus first edition in trade paperback format. New & unused; no marks, not remaindered, not exlib, etc. simple author signature on title page, no inscription. In removable protective plastic cover, a very nice copy. fiction trade paperback. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 12004
Book Description New York, New York, U.S.A.: Random House Inc, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. Signed by E L Doctorow directly on the title page, NOT signed to anyone. This book was signed by E. L. Doctorow at Barnes & Noble, New York, on September 15, 2009. First Edition, First Printing with full number line. Hardcover. Book is brand new and unread. No marks or inscriptions. Not a Book Club Ediiton, Not an Ex-Library. Dust jacket is new, not price clipped, in a protective mylar cover. This is a beautiful autographed first edition for collectors. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 000346
Book Description Random House, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P111400064945
Book Description Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A., 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. SIGNED on Title Page. 1st Edition-Stated. 1st Printing-Full # Line. New copy. Never read. Not price clipped. Not a remainder. BEAUTIFUL copy of Book & Dust Jacket [in Mylar.] COLLECTOR'S COPY. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 001736