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Love and the Incredibly Old Man

A Novel

“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 an excerpt.

240 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2008


Literature and Literary Criticism: Humor


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

Kirkus Reviews

"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."

Publishers Weekly

"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 | TLS

Table of Contents

An Introduction to Juan Ponce de León
Chapter One
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wherein Ponce de León becomes a Jew and dedicates Florida’s first synagogue for Congregation Beth Mekor-Hayim
Chapter Eight
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
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
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
Wherein Ponce de León opens and maintains the Garden of Eden, the Fountain of Youth, and the Ponce de Leon Museum of Florida History
Wherein the author ends the story of Juan Ponce de León

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