cover image Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius

Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius

Laurence Bergreen. Simon & Schuster, $32.50 (672p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1649-7

In this overstuffed, occasionally compelling, but ultimately lackluster recounting of the famed libertine’s life, Bergreen (Columbus: The Four Voyages) gives much detail but little insight into the experiences of the man whose name became shorthand for seduction. Born in Venice in 1725 to two actors, Giacomo Casanova was a sickly child neglected by his parents. He did have brains, however, eventually studying for the priesthood in his teens, even as he discovered the pleasures of sex. Bergreen follows his protagonist across Europe, to Paris, St. Petersburg, and Prague, encountering figures high and low, including Voltaire and Don Giovanni librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. There is little assessment, however, just a retelling in intimate, and often laborious, detail of the events of Casanova’s life—especially his famous love life. One notable exception to the otherwise monotonous focus on Casanova’s seductions comes in the chapter devoted to his incarceration and daring escape from the notorious prison I Piombi, after his arrest and conviction by the Inquisition. The episode reads like a brilliant spy novel. There is no end of fascinating, rich material here—but Bergreen unfortunately does not make the most of it. [em]Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Nov.) [/em]