So shoot me, I’ve never read E.L. Doctorow before now. Guess I was in my feminist science fiction phase when Ragtime came out. No matter. Homer and Langley is a lovely novel. Considering the fact that the main characters are reclusive, hoarding brothers who live in shocking squalor, achieving lovely is no mean feat for the author. The novel is based on the true story of Homer and Langley Collyer, who repelled and fascinated New Yorkers until their deaths in 1947. This is the story of how the brothers, children of privilege, came to be thus. Told from Homer’s viewpoint, the story of Langley’s increasing eccentricity and Homer’s dependent complicity is told with kindness, humor, heartbreak, and love. Doctorow’s departure from actual history (he extends their lifespans by a good 30 years, and invents characters who float in and out of their lives) serves the story so well that you don’t mind at all once you’ve squared your confusion. And the author’s ability to humanize what must have been quite a freak show forces you to look a little differently at what you see on the nightly news.