Homer and Langley Collyer lived a life of mystery.
In their four story brownstone at the corner of Fifth Avenue & 128th Street, the brothers sealed themselves up through the Great Depression, both World Wars, and as Harlem shifted from a rich white suburb to a poor black slum. In the cavernous dwelling, the pair amassed ‘one of the world’s legendary collections of urban junk.’ Two-hundred tons of junk by the end.
For author Franz Lidz, who wrote the book on the Collyer brothers, tales of hermit hoarders did not require much imagination.
Franz’s Uncle Arthur could have been a protégé of Langley Collyer. Arthur too collected urban ephemera indiscriminately and filled his apartment with newspapers, shoes-laces, and discarded gems of all kinds.
Ghosty Men and Unstrung Heroes are two of my favorite books of all time. The stories are sincere and the writing is exquisite. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Franz’s childhood memoir also stars Uncle Arthur and the rest of the almost-to-strange-to-believe Lidz family.