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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

That Mysterious Threshold

How many books must you love by an author before declaring that author a "favorite"?

Ludicrous question, you say? With "Homer and Langley" (2009), author EL Doctorow has reached this reading nerd's ludicrous threshold and become a favorite. Doctorow's fictionalized account of the famously eccentric Collyer brothers of early 20th century NYC managed a remarkable feat - it made me care about them. In less skilled hands their story could have evoked pity, scorn, or even disgust. Instead, using Homer as his narrator, Doctorow turns the focus from their odd behavior to their love for each other.

One reason Doctorow has become a favorite is his respect for my intelligence. I noticed the dialogue in both this book and "The March" (2005) assumed I was paying close attention; the author often doesn't say who is speaking. I've also come to appreciate his lack of showiness. At least in these last two books I've read, the writing is largely metaphor-free with the emphasis foremost on his characters, many of whom are memorably flawed. That skill was the first thing that drew me to Doctorow. The blistering and fatal pride of Coalhouse Walker in "Ragtime" is seared into my memory.

Still there wondering what my threshold is? You'll have to comment either here or otherwise or my lips remain sealed. A guy has to retain some mystery, no? A clue? OK - I've read more of Doctorow's work than is mentioned here but not ten of his books. Your turn.   

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