Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 #2: Homer and Langley (E.L. Doctorow)

Homer & LangleyHomer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading up a bit on the Collyer brothers, I changed my assessment of this novel. I don't take issue with the liberties of timeline and birth order, but I don't understand why Doctorow did it. Sure, the journey through the 1950s-70s was interesting and the Collier brothers would no doubt have been an intriguing lens for such times, but why make Homer the pianist and the younger brother? Admittedly, I knew little about the Collyer brothers before reading the novel and I think that added to my enjoyment. What struck me is that it is a story about stories in some sense. For much of the world, there were mysteries behind those doors of that brownstone that were sensationalized, yet fantastically truthful. What Doctorow does, however, is digs through the labels of "disorders" and reveals a relationship between two people. Two secluded brothers in history are perfect fodder for fictionalization and maybe that is their legacy--to generate stories. There's a safety in fiction, especially now that they are gone. But Doctorow asks us--with this story--to look beyond all in our present that is eccentric and "unknown" to find the touchstones. Maybe I'm giving him more credit than I should, but that was my takeaway from the book.

Friday, January 8, 2016

2016 #1: Flight (Sherman Alexie)

FlightFlight by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three pages in, I was prepared not to like this book. It had all the indications of being a Catcher In The Rye-type novel, and I have no great love for that book. I stuck with it, however, and soon I realized that Alexie had a far different story to tell that was much larger than the angst of his teenage protagonist, Zits. He keeps it edgy without being obnoxious, and the questions that the book invokes are never fully answered but you realize at the end that it matters not. Here is an author that understands that violence is perhaps a universal potential that we conveniently put in racial and ethnic boxes when it suits us to think better of ourselves. Fantastic book!