The A&E show Hoarders has nothing on New York's famed Collyer brothers, eccentric recluses from a prominent family who collected anything and everything over a thirty-year period. Renowned American author E.L. Doctorow fictionalizes the lives of these unique subjects in his latest novel Homer and Langley. Their story is told from brother Homer's point of view, who was once a gifted pianist but is now blind, relying on Langley not only for his basic needs, but also his outlook on life. And what Langley does in life, when he's not pontificating on the matters of the world or setting booby traps for potential invaders, is collect. Newspapers mainly, buying both the morning and evening editions of all the newspapers published in the city, then clipping out headlines in an effort to construct one grand newspaper that will serve as a guideline to the repetitive course of human events, such that it will put all other newspapers out of business. Throw in a Model T Ford, several pianos, bicycles, broken toys, and a bevy of old appliances, and you can begin to get a picture of what life was like in the Collyer home. For the rest, you can rely on Doctorow to create a sympathetic portrait of the brothers' interior world. The author sheds much light onto their day-to-day lives as he chronicles the comings and goings of many a fed-up house servant and paints a tender, often humorous portrait of the brothers' relationship to one another. In the end, they are exactly as Homer describes them in the novel, "Living self-directed lives unintimidated by convention."
Other great stories about eccentric lives include The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett, and the film Grey Gardens. Got a clutter problem of your own? Your local branch has many books that can help, from Conquer the Clutter to Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui.
Recommended by Morgan Miller