UCLA hosted its Casanova Conference, “Libertine Legend,” on January 22 and 23. I hope I can convey how exciting this was for me to attend! To geek out with other Casanova experts, to be able to refer to people like Henriette or Manon or M.M. or de Bernis, and everyone there knew who I was talking about! To hear erudite scholars make connections across texts, or analyze symbolism, or question images and motives, or basically make my brain explode, well, it was a kind of heaven.
In less than 48 hours I took in so much information and met so many people that I can’t possibly share it all in one post. So I’ll spread it out, with the title above and successive numbers (in case you want to read them all at once?)
Very cool thing #1: As I arrived, running a little late coming across LA traffic during the morning commute, I found myself coming up the stairs of Royce Hall at the same time as another attendee. “Oh, we’re a bit late. I hope we haven’t missed much,” I said, huffing as we rushed up the three flights of stairs.
“Well, I just arrived from New York,” replied this silver-haired man in his neat, dark suit.
“So, do you specialize in any area of Casanova studies?” I asked. I couldn’t wait to begin meeting specialists and hear their stories!
“Not really,” he said. “I’m more of a generalist. And you?”
“I focus on Casanova’s Venice years,” I said, and then this man really turned to take a look at me.
“I think we already know each other,” he said, and stretched out his hand to shake mine.
It turns out it was Laurence Bergreen, author of numerous books on historical figures and events, including Columbus, Al Capone, and Marco Polo. He had contacted me a couple years ago as he embarked on research to write a biography on Casanova. He had come across my book Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, and we emailed to share resources. I knew Larry would be attending the conference, but I didn’t expect to meet him on the stairs!
We jumped right in to the conference room, where a reading of the first paper was already underway, but we had time to talk over lunch. Larry is in the editing phase of his Casanova biography, which is due out in November from Simon and Schuster. He has already cut about 200 words and needs to cut another 200! I wish I had that kind of problem! I generally don’t write enough. He also graciously signed my copy of his book Marco Polo. Hopefully we’ll meet again, perhaps if I can get myself to NYC!
And this is just cool thing #1, before I even heard the first paper being presented! There will be lots more to come.
Here’s a link to Larry’s website if you want to check out his work. His Marco Polo book has been made into a Netflicks series!
Royce Hall, UCLA