Love and the Incredibly Old Man: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

“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 León? The fantastic life of that legendary explorer—inventor of rum, cigars, Coca-Cola, and popcorn—is the frame for Siegel’s fourth ...
See more details below
Love and the Incredibly Old Man: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 41%)$18.00 List Price

Overview

“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 León? The fantastic life of that legendary explorer—inventor of rum, cigars, Coca-Cola, and popcorn—is 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 León, 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 Man continues the real Lee Siegel’s exuberant exploration of that sentiment which Ponce de León 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.”
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Mix a history of Spanish conquistadors in the New World with a porny pulp tale, and the result is this entertaining novel. The premise: Juan Ponce de Leon, the venerable 16th-century Spanish conquistador, is alive and living in Florida thanks to the Fountain of Youth (which he discovered). But with the fountain running dry, the explorer is anxious to chronicle his 540 years on Earth before shuffling off this mortal coil, and summons ghostwriter Lee Siegel to record the lurid details of his countless love affairs. The irascible explorer-between coining imaginative words such as cardarring (meaning, among other things, to have sex)-lays out a reasonably reliable (lurid embellishments notwithstanding) rendering of Ponce de Leon's travels. In addition to his other vices, Ponce de Leon (who claims to have invented cigars, rum and popcorn) leans heavily on cocaine-infused rum punch and morphine as he and Siegel race to beat the explorer's quickly approaching death. While this novel offers a decidedly goofy point of view, surprisingly, it works. Siegel slips in the history lessons so deftly that readers will barely realize they are being educated as well as titillated. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The "incredibly old man" of the title is none other than Juan Ponce de Le-n, who (in Siegel's take) did discover the Fountain of Youth, lived through tumultuous historical times and died in 2006. The conceit of this novel from Siegel (Who Wrote the Book of Love?, 2005, etc.) is that Ponce de Le-n contacts a writer of indifferent gifts named Lee Siegel to pen his memoirs, for the Spanish explorer hasn't written anything of note since his last logbook entry in 1513. Siegel takes on the formidable task, meanwhile trying to decide whether de Le-n is fraudulent, authentic or crazy. The narrative is divided into historical sections beginning in 1465 and ending with a coda in 2006. Along the way we become acquainted with the subject's life: his background as a "converso" (or converted Jew); his being dispatched to the New World in search of the Fountain of Youth; his invention of cigars and rum and discovery of popcorn; his taking on the guise of a priest but later dedicating the first synagogue in Florida; his later years as an actor and land speculator. But he recounts with even greater zest the catalogue of his lovers-and over the course of some 540 years this list is impressive. Starting out with Queen Ysabel la Cat-lica and running into the 20th century, de Le-n whores and debauches his way through some 30 or more lovers. (In later life he makes an alphabetical catalogue he runs through to help him get to sleep at night.) He does point out, however, that he got married only five times, an average of once per century. Throughout the novel, a comic discrepancy exists between de Le-n, who wants to be memorialized in a particular way, and Siegel, who does his best but is constantly subject tode Le-n's refinements, criticisms and (occasionally) contempt. The novel is whimsical, erotic and comic all at the same time, and Ponce de Le-n is revealed as an exuberant, self-indulgent and crusty old guy.
TLS
A creative attitude to the novel is in abundant evidence across all Siegel's fiction; and this new novel is a worthy addition to a body of work which deserves a wider audience.

— Stephen Burn

Kirkus Reviews

"Whimsical, erotic and comic all at the same time."

Publishers Weekly

"Mix a history of Spanish conquistadors in the New World with a porny pulp tale, and the result is this entertaining novel. . . . . While this novel offers a decidedly goofy point of view, surprisingly, it works."

TLS - Stephen Burn
"A creative attitude to the novel is in abundant evidence across all Siegel's fiction; and this new novel is a worthy addition to a body of work which deserves a wider audience."
The Barnes & Noble Review
A good historical novel is a rare thing. For every Patrick O'Brian or E. L. Doctorow, there must be thousands of hacks churning out Master and Commander fan fiction and Dixie-rising "alternate history." It's forgivable. Fiction is challenging enough without having to develop a chick-littérateur's eye for costume, or to write period dialogue that rises above that of an elementary-school play. Unless one is a world-renowned historian or commands a battalion of research assistants, he ought to stick to what he knows.

To this, novelist Lee Siegel (not to be confused with the journalist of the same name) would say: "What if what, or rather who, I know is a significant historical personage?" In his fourth outing, Love and the Incredibly Old Man, a writer, also named Lee Siegel, is invited to Florida to ghost-write the lengthy, lubricious, and hilarious biography of Juan Ponce de Le?n. Mr. de Le?n swears to Yahweh that he was born Samson ben Aryeh, son of a Jewish stage troupe manager, and that as one of Queen Ysabel's court performers and "sundry clandestine paramours" he was sent to the New World under a new name, to escape the Inquisition and discover the Fountain of Youth -- which, naturally, he did.

This is neither a postmodern gag nor an indulgent magic-realist fantasia, nor, of course, a work of historical fiction in the usual sense. Best to call it an audacious and accomplished act of imagination, requiring of the reader the same auto-da-fé it demands of our beleaguered ghost writer. Lee Siegel the character doesn't believe a single jot of the story dictated to him by an old man accoutered in what looks like wax museum getup (and Ray-Bans), a man who claims with furious insistence to be hundreds of years old, even to have discovered or invented rum, cigars, and popcorn. Yet he faces a dilemma familiar to all writers: he needs the money. And the Incredibly Old Man is loaded.

However preposterous the conceit, the reader finds himself sharing in Siegel's waning disbelief. Mr. de Le?n's panoply of "objets d'art and documents," he concedes, "did seem impressively and authentically ancient." The fading conquistador -- who wants to preserve his legacy because the Fountain has gone dry -- also delivers a bizarre, occult-tinged account of the Fountain's origins (hint: Eagle Springs, Florida, is ?the Gan Eden of the Hebrews and the hortus deliciarum of the Christian cartographers?) that for sheer complexity and intrigue should make Dan Brown hang his head in defeat.

Love and the Incredibly Old Man contains history both true and gratuitously false, but it isn't history of the textbook variety that Mr. de Le?n is interested in bequeathing to posterity. At one point Siegel interrupts his flamboyant employer: "Don't you think that in a book, the premise of which is that the narrator has been alive for five hundred and forty years, we might write a few things about history, about political events...? Surely the author of this book should have something to say about imperialism, colonialism, slavery, genocide, and the oppression of indigenous cultures. In all of the chapters so far, your only real concern has been with Ponce de Le?n's sex life."

This is true. Ponce de Le?n's story is primarily the baroque and comical history of his many loves, each one abandoned to mortality or cast aside to conceal his secret. His tragic if dubious refrain is ?I loved her more than any woman ever.? He suffers from insomnia, partly due to his cocaine-spiked rum punch, but instead of counting sheep he reminisces about a different former lover for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (Poor Lee Siegel tries this, too, with less success than the aged lothario.) Mr. de Le?n muses, "I want my readers to understand that age does not, despite what anyone may propose in a vain effort to take the sting out of senescence, help one understand love or control it." He ought to know.

Siegel does touch upon the more fraught aspects of the American conquest, but it's a suitably light touch. After Mr. de Le?n obliquely reveals that he had to dispose of certain prying individuals ("after fifty years as a Zhotee-eloq" Indian, he says, he had "become adept at archery"), he tartly instructs his scribe to "note...that doing what I did do in the eighteenth century didn't seem quite so wicked then.... Morality has a way of changing over the years." Where have we heard that before?

Mr. de Le?n is not only a philanderer and killer but also selfish and opportunistic in keeping his Fountain to himself. In order to preserve his secret he turns it into, at different points in history, a Catholic mission (more of a swingers' den), a Confederate hospital (more of a brothel, which becomes so popular that Graybacks are shooting themselves in the feet to get in), and, as the Fountain begins to run dry and death is near, a hide-in-plain-sight tourist trap.

"Compassion and courage are...not my most salient virtues," he tells Siegel. "[T]he good lover would consider letting humanity perish and suffer in hell if doing otherwise impeded just one kiss from the lips of his beloved." It's because he is so wicked, so awful at justifying himself but so voluble in doing so, that we have to adore old Ponce; we have to believe he's the real deal.

Love and the Incredibly Old Man may not be to everyone's taste -- too zany, too dirty, perhaps too cavalier about the more tragic and bloody aspects of the past -- but Siegel's knack for the tall tale is undeniable. He has slashed and burned his way to the heart of the Twain tradition, expertly yoking accurate-seeming historical detail to the kind of florid plot that few contemporary novelists would try to get away with. It makes one wonder whether "Truth is stranger than fiction" wasn't just propaganda for bores who shouldn't have been writing in the first place. --Stefan Beck

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226757070
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • File size: 611 KB

Meet the Author

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?
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface
2005
An Introduction to Juan Ponce de León
 
Chapter One
1465–1493
Wherein Ponce de León, 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
1493–1513
Wherein Ponce de León 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 León 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
1514–1564
Wherein Ponce de León becomes a Zhotee-eloq Indian, lives as one of them in Paradise, and attempts to save them from extermination

Chapter Five
1565–1647
Wherein Ponce de León becomes a priest of the Catholic Church, visits his tomb in Puerto Rico, and establishes Florida’s Mission of San Hortano
 
Chapter Six
1647–1763
Wherein Ponce de León 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
1763–1783
Wherein Ponce de León becomes a Jew and dedicates Florida’s first synagogue for Congregation Beth Mekor-Hayim
 
Chapter Eight
1784–1821
Wherein Ponce de León opens Florida’s first theater and returns to the stage to play, among others, Christ, Columbus, Hamlet, an Old Man, and himself
 
Chapter Nine
1821–1865
Wherein Ponce de León becomes an American citizen, opens a yellow fever sanatorium and, subsequently, an infirmary for Confederate soldiers wounded in the Civil War
 
Chapter Ten
1865–1915
Wherein Ponce de León 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
1915–2005
Wherein Ponce de León opens and maintains the Garden of Eden, the Fountain of Youth, and the Ponce de Leon Museum of Florida History
 
Coda
2005–2006
Wherein the author ends the story of Juan Ponce de León
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)