Trust E.L. Doctorow to unearth a nearly forgotten tidbit of American history and spin a fascinating story -part fiction, part fable - around it.
Brothers Homer and Langley Collyer were fabulously wealthy recluses who made headlines in 1947 when their bodies were discovered inside their crumbling mansion in New York City. Homer, who is blind and a virtuoso pianist, narrates the story of their lives skillfully interwoven with historical events. Doctorow extends the brothers' story and has them move through much of the 20th century. Langley returns home from World War I shell shocked and transformed by a mustard gas attack and they soon lose their parents to the Spanish flu. Their enormous house gradually becomes a museum - or mausoleum - of objects, new technology and even people they collect along the way. The Collyers fill every cranny with the detritus of popular culture including a Model T Ford in their dining room. Langley's particular obsession is with news and his metaphysical 'Theory of Replacements' as he attempts to compose an ultimate, eternally current single edition of the Collyer newspaper. "To be a Collyer" is a term still used around New York if someone shows signs of being a hoarder. If you're prone to collecting and/or cluttering, be warned!
Submitted by Christine@Central