book review: love and the incredibly old man

Lee Siegel’s Love and the Incredibly Old Man is a book about Ponce de Leon, who rather than being a fool who accidentally discovered Florida while looking for the Fountain of Youth was a Jewish actor who cardarred a lot of women in his 540-some-odd years of life. Most of those women were of course after he found the Fountain. Now, the story is being told by Lee Siegel, who the incredibly old man hired to ghost write his story. That’s the jist of the book. It’s unapologetically counter-factual as Lee Siegel (the author and narrator) compares the old man in Florida’s version of things to what is recorded, and funny in parts. Ponce de Leon is a tyrant, but a well-paying one who demands a lot of productivity from his ghost writer, including the creation of many new metaphors and translations of untranslatable words.

The problem I had with the book is that it really was a litany of women and how much PdL loved each of them. It’s a problem which Siegel brings up in the story. Really it’s a story about growing Siegel growing old, not about love, and it’s unsatisfying in the final analysis. It reminded me of Garcia Marquez, but with less magical amazingness. The reflexive analysis of the story was clever but I felt like there needed to be more than just that as a hook. As the story went on I grew to dread the Ponce de Leon parts and wished there was more Siegel, just because tales of loving each woman more than any woman ever, get pretty tedious.

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