Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers and My Uncle Arthur, New York's Greatest Hoarders by Franz Lidz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I'm not sure I can properly convey how irritating this book is. I picked it up because I've become mildly obsessed with a show on A&E called Hoarders, and I wanted to see what the famous Collyer Brothers had to offer. I'd heard about them -- Homer and Langley Collyer had crammed a Harlem brownstone full of tons of stuff in the early part of the last century and lived as recluses. But instead of giving me the Collyer brothers, this yahoo decided to make every second chapter about his Uncle Arthur, who was also a hoarder. And despite what it says above, there is no "and My Uncle Arthur" in the book's subtitle. I was promised "The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders."
The list of this author's crimes is significant:
-He apparently didn't have enough material on the Collyers to even write a book. The book is short in the first place and half is about his own family. The Collyer material is minimal and cribbed from other writers. One Collyer chapter is really about the history of Harlem, which the Collyers were not really involved in, since they very rarely left their house. But at least his redundant writing style fills up extra space.
-His writing style is forced and strives too hard for atmosphere. Here he is on an evening in the Bronx with his uncle: "Nightfall flashed hot and jittery, full of frenetic longing that never seemed fulfilled." Ugh. His syntax and narrative twist around so that the chronology becomes unclear. He also repeats himself. Frequently.
-He doesn't confine the non-Collyer material to his Uncle Arthur, but writes extensively about his whole family—including passages of very bad poetry by his relatives—despite having written a whole other book devoted to his uncles. Apparently, he just Can't. Stop. Writing. about them. In fact, the photo on this book's cover is of his Uncle Arthur. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THE COLLYERS. God.
Around chapter 11, we finally get to some interesting stuff about the Collyer's and their piles of junk, but I'm not sure it was worth it.
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