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9781408702154

Homer and Langley

Doctorow, E. L.

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Brilliant brothers Langley and Homer Collyer are born into bourgeois New York comfort in settled times, their home a fin-de-siecle mansion on upper Fifth Avenue, their future rosy. But before he is out of his teens Homer begins to lose his sight, Langley returns from the War in Europe with his lungs seared by gas, and when the death of their parents in the influenza epidemic of 1918 leaves the brothers orphaned, they seem perilously ill-equipped to deal with the new era. Around Central Park carriages give way to motor cars, Prohibition to free love, but Homer and Langley adapt: their townhouse fills and empties and fills again, with servants, lodgers, tea-dancers and gangsters. They are mocked and spied on, embraced by hippies and besieged by bailiffs, but as the world turns ever more incomprehensible Homer and Langley hold fast to their principles of self-reliance, courage, kindness and love, and they endure.

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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

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About the Author:

E.L. Doctorow is one of America's most accomplished and acclaimed living writers. Winner of (among others) the National Book Award, he is the author of ten novels that have explored the drama of American life from the late 19th century to the 21st.

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Doctorow, E. L. Author
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