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“I feel my typewriters, my table, my chair to have that assurance of a solid world, where things take up space, where there is not the endless emptiness of insubstantial thought that leads to nowhere but itself.” – page 207


The real Collyers lost their telephone service in 1917, and then their electricity, water, and gas in 1928. In Doctorow’s novel, Homer describes his and Langley’s lives as a battle with “the Health and Fire Departments, the Bank, the utilities, and everyone else” (p. 175). What do the brothers do to enable themselves to survive without these necessities? Do you think individuals today could separate themselves entirely from the world around them?

Try this:

Consider today’s new definitions for “sustainability” and compare the Collyer brothers’experience with developments featured on the web site for Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future:


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