“I am telling you what I know – words have music and if you are a musician you will write to hear them.”
I believe it was John Updike who said, “Review the book, not the reputation.” E.L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime, has a great reputation as a writer and it is well deserved. In Homer & Langely, he writes beautifully – in a style that often calls to mind Audrey Niffenegger – but there’s simply so little story to be told that the words are wasted. It’s as if a musician were given a score to play that hid all of his strengths and talents.
This is a 208-page novella that runs on too long; the basic tale could well have been told as a 30- to 40-page short story. Two brothers, wealthy by birth, become hermits while they’re living in a mansion across the street from New York City’s Central Park. One brother is blind and the other is either bizarre or mentally ill. This is not only a summary of the plot, but of almost everything that happens in H&L. The most interesting scenes come when the brothers are visited by a tribe of hippies.
Doctorow’s latest was, for this reader, a novella that was far too easy to put down.
Random House, $26.00, 208 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.