Love and the Incredibly Old Man: A Novel

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-04-11
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" begins one chapter of critically acclaimed Lee Siegel's new novel,Love and the Incredibly Old Man. "In the beginning" starts another. What else can a novelist do when hired as a ghostwriter by an elderly, irascible, conquistador-costumed man claiming to be the 540-year-old Juan Ponce de Leon? The fantastic life of that legendary explorerinventor of rum, cigars, Coca-Cola, and popcornis the frame for Siegel's fourth chronicle of love, lies, luck, loss, and labia. Summoned with cold hard cash and a pinch of flattery, a professor and novelist named Lee Siegel finds himself in Eagle Springs, Florida, attempting to give form to the life of the man who, contrary to popular and historical opinion, did indeed find the Fountain of Youth. Spending humid days listening to the romantic ramblings of the old man and sleepless nights doubting yet trying to craft these reminiscences into a narrative that will satisfy the literary aspirations of his subject, Siegel the ghostwriter spins an improbable tale filled with Native Americans, insatiable monarchs, philandering cantors, deliriously passionate nuns, delicate actresses, androgynous artists, and deceptions small and large. For de Leon, and for Siegel too, centuries of conquest and colonialism, fortune and identity, are all refracted through the memories of the conquistador's lovers, each and every one of them adored "more than any other woman ever." Comic, melancholic, lusty, and fully engaged with the act of invention, whether in love or on the page,Love and the Incredibly Old Mancontinues the real Lee Siegel's exuberant exploration of that sentiment which Ponce de Leon confesses has "transported me to the most joyous heights, plunged me to the most dismal depths, and dropped me willy-nilly and dumbfounded at all places in between."

Author Biography

Lee Siegel is the author of numerous books, including Love in a Dead Language, Love and Other Games of Chance, and Who Wrote the Book of Love?

Table of Contents

Preface 2005 An Introduction to Juan Ponce de Leon Chapter One 14651493 Wherein Ponce de Leon, after his childhood, boyhood, and youth in Spain, is dispatched by Queen Ysabel to the Indies in search of a Fountain of Youth Chapter Two 14931513 Wherein Ponce de Leon settles in the New World, becomes governor of Higuey and of Borinquen, invents cigars and rum, and discovers popcorn and Florida Chapter Three 1513 Wherein Ponce de Leon happens upon the Garden of Eden, discovers within it the Fountain of Life, and devises a plot by which to keep it secret Chapter Four 15141564 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes a Zhotee-eloq Indian, lives as one of them in Paradise, and attempts to save them from extermination Chapter Five 15651647 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes a priest of the Catholic Church, visits his tomb in Puerto Rico, and establishes Florida's Mission of San Hortano Chapter Six 16471763 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes a wealthy merchant, purchases the land of the Mission of San Hortano for the cultivation of tobacco, becomes his own son, and then his grandson Chapter Seven 17631783 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes a Jew and dedicates Florida's first synagogue for Congregation Beth Mekor-Hayim Chapter Eight 17841821 Wherein Ponce de Leon opens Florida's first theater and returns to the stage to play, among others, Christ, Columbus, Hamlet, an Old Man, and himself Chapter Nine 18211865 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes an American citizen, opens a yellow fever sanatorium and, subsequently, an infirmary for Confederate soldiers wounded in the Civil War Chapter Ten 18651915 Wherein Ponce de Leon becomes himself at celebrations of Florida Discovery Day, and at the openings of the Hotel Ponce de Leon, the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, and the Grace Methodist Fountain of Youth Residence for the Aged Chapter Eleven 19152005 Wherein Ponce de Leon opens and maintains the Garden of Eden, the Fountain of Youth, and the Ponce de Leon Museum of Florida History Coda 20052006 Wherein the author ends the story of Juan Ponce de Leon

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