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Homer & Langley

History accumulates in E.L. Doctorow’s novel about the Collyer brothers.

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They are the watchword for home organizers everywhere, patron saints of pack rats, and so synonymous with clutter that they have a syndrome named after them. They’ve been fictionalized in more than 10 novels since their deaths, with homages in everything from television’s “Monk” to Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot.”

(I’ve always thought of Shel Silverstein’s “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout,” who would not take the garbage out, as a sort of rhyming progeny.) But beyond the squalor they died in, most people don’t know much about the Collyer brothers.

Multiple award-winning author E.L. Doctorow (“Ragtime,” “The March”) brings his prodigious abilities to combine history and fiction to bear on one of New York’s most famous urban legends in his new novel, Homer & Langley. The “Grey Gardens” girls got their own A-list miniseries this spring, and A&E just launched the new reality series, “Hoarders,” last month, so public fascination with both wealthy, troubled scions and obsessive compulsive disorder does not appear to be on the wane.


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