Friday, October 02, 2009

I Just Read…

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow. This is a fictionalized account of the very real lives of the infamous Collyer brothers. The novel details the lives of the Collyer brothers, notorious for their eccentricities as well as for their habit of compulsively hoarding a plethora of various bric-a-brac.

Doctorow very gently leads us through not only the rooms of the Fifth Avenue home that became first a prison of, and then the tomb for, these brothers – but also through the minds that created this havoc. According to all accounts, Doctorow has taken liberties with many things, including the birth dates and birth order of Homer and Langely, but it appears that he remains true to the essence of what was discovered at the end of their lives in April 1947. (Doctorow has in fact extended their lives so that that they live into the late 1970s.)

If you are interested in more about hoarding, you may find the documentary film Grey Gardens (DVD BIO GREY) of interest. This documentary is a portrait of the relationship between Edith Bouvier Beale and her grown daughter, Little Edie, once an aspiring actress in New York who left her career to care for her aging mother in their East Hampton home and never left again. The aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis feed their cats and raccoons and rehash their pasts behind the walls of their decaying mansion, Grey Gardens.

If you are interested in more by E.L.Doctorow, the Copper Queen Library owns the following titles:

Loon Lake – It is the Great Depression of the 1930s, and a passionate young man from Paterson, New Jersey, leaves home to find his fortune. What he finds, on a cold and lonely night in the Adirondack Mountains, is a vision of life so different from his own that it changes his destiny, leading him from the side of a railroad track to a magical place called Loon Lake.

World’s Fair – The novel of a young boy's life in the New York City of the 1930s, a stunning recreation of the sights, sounds, aromas and emotions of a time when the streets were safe, families stuck together through thick and thin, and all the promises of a generation culminate in a single great World's Fair.

Billy Bathgate – Doctorow's mesmerizing odyssey about a teenage, fatherless street kid adopted by mobsters.

Waterworks – A newspaper editor investigates the disappearance of freelance journalist Martin Pemberton and uncovers a macabre scientific experiment that involves Pemberton's supposedly dead father and several other wealthy old men. Doctorow's presentation of New York in 1871 as impacted by the Industrial Revolution and the corruption of Boss Tweed's government is the true story behind the story.

City of God – New York at the end of the 20th century – hardly St. Augustine's City of God – is the canvas on which Doctorow paints an impressionistic portrait of man's frail moral nature and the possibilities of redemption.

The March – As the Civil War was moving toward its inevitable conclusion, General William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving a 60-mile-wide trail of death, destruction, looting, thievery, and chaos. Doctorow has put his unique stamp on these events by staying close to historical fact, naming real people and places and then imagining the rest.

--by Hanje Richards