Title: Homer and Langley
Author: E.L. Doctorow
A couple of months ago, I heard Diane Rehm interview E.L. Doctorow about Homer and Langley, his newest novel. I've read a lot of current fiction, but for some reason, I was always afraid of Doctorow. I started reading The March at least three or four times, always giving up after thirty or forty pages. So when I heard the interview about Homer and Langley and thought it sounded interesting, I ordered the book from the library.
Homer and Langley is a good introduction to Doctorow. The novel is relatively short, and somewhat loosely based on the fascinating story of real life hermit brothers Homer and Langley Collyer, who packed their Manhattan brownstone so full that once Homer Collyer died, rescue workers had to cut holes to get into the house (the doors and windows were all sealed off with 130 tons of stuff). It took them nearly a month to determine that Langley was dead too, and when they finally removed enough of their hoardings that the found his body less than 10 feet from where Homer was found. Doctorow presents the story from Homer's perspective, and takes the liberty of blinding Homer from childhood (he actually became blind as an older adult), which makes him less a willing partner in the hoarding and antisocial behaviors and more a victim of Langley's mental illnesses.
The book is an interesting read, but I'd guess it's not one of Doctorow's best. It's definitely accessible, and thoughtful, but it's not especially rich or multi-layered (unless you count all of the junk), which is what I had expected (and feared) with Doctorow.