Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Ghosty Men

I was almost done with the first Frankenstein book in Dean Koontz's series when I decided to take a little break and read something else. I recently started getting Amazon's daily book deal reminder when Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers and My Uncle Arthur by Franz Lidz became available for 99 cents. (Lidz also wrote Unstrung Heroes about his four uncles which was made into a movie in 1995.)

Besides being lured by the price, I determined at 160 pages this would be a quick read. It was as I read it in one day. The book goes back and forth telling the story of the hoarding Collyer brothers who lived in Harlem in the early 1900's and the author's eccentric uncle Arthur who also liked to collect junk. The two Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, rarely left the house (one of them didn't leave for 20 years), but still seemed to find time to collect items. A lot of items... as in piles many feet high with only paths through the house. In 1947 they were both found dead two weeks from each other which is when the outside world got to see the real scope of what their 12 room brownstone looked like. Uncle Arthur's story isn't so grim, but he clearly had his own struggles.

The book received a fair amount of positive reviews on Amazon noting that it had details that other books on the Collyer brothers did not. Since this is the first book I read about them I can't verify this or not, but if felt like he could have written a whole lot more about them or about hoarding.

A fair amount of people on Amazon were disappointed that this book was not just about the Collyer brothers, but to be fair the subtitle lets everyone know that it was also about uncle Arthur. However, it sort of felt like a stretch covering these two topics in the same book. Sure they lived somewhat close to each other and each had a hoarding habit, but that's it. The story often felt like it was missing something... like this was the beginning of a bigger book, but when the author didn't have the material he hoped to gather he pasted together this story.

As I was nearing the end of the book I decided to search online for some pictures of the house. This might have been a mistake as I also got to see Langley Collyer's month old dead body on a pile of rubbish right before I went to bed. I had such a hard time getting the image out of my head I actually went to bed with the light on. If you are easily disturbed like me I would suggest looking at images in the middle of the day instead... or skip it all together.

While this was a fascinating topic I feel like this book could have been so much more. Grade: C

Books read since the beginning of 2012:7

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