Magazine article Book

Spellbound: Gore Vidal's Protege Writes a Novel about Mentoring-And Finds His Own Apprentice. (Special Projects)

Magazine article Book

Spellbound: Gore Vidal's Protege Writes a Novel about Mentoring-And Finds His Own Apprentice. (Special Projects)

Article excerpt

MENTORS HAVE AN AURA, AN indefinable yet alluring presence that affects the person tinder their spell," wrote Jay Parini in an essay from his 1997 collection, Some Necessary Angels.

The role has long fascinated the fifty-three-year-old author, and now, in his sixth novel, The Apprentice Lover, he uses the insularity of the Mediterranean island of Capri to great effect, exploring the relationship between a Robert Graves-like mentor and a young American writer.

"In a sense, this should have been my first novel," Parini says. "It's the kind of story about your beginnings as a writer. I needed thirty years to do it justice." (In that time, Parini has also become an accomplished poet and a biographer of both John Steinbeck and Robert Frost.)

Set in the early 1970s, the story is told by Alex Massolini, who has dropped out of Columbia University in his last semester to work as a secretary to Rupert Grant, a famed poet and historical novelist. Arriving at Grant's villa on Capri, he is welcomed by Vera, Grant's indulgent wife and a cookbook writer. When Grant first meets Massolini, he immediately imposes his will upon the young man by renaming him "Lorenzo," which he says he prefers to "Alex. …

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