Erich Segal Essay - Critical Essays

Segal, Erich (Vol. 10)

Introduction

Segal, Erich 1937–

Segal is an American novelist, playwright, librettist, screenwriter, editor, and classics scholar. He is far better known for his first novel, Love Story, than for his scholarly writing. Both Love Story and its sequel, Oliver's Story, were critically received as maudlin, simplistic depictions of contemporary romance. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)

Richard R. Lingeman

Erich Segal's "Love Story" was one of those perfect little pop entertainment machines, gears greased by schmaltz, purring and clicking as it delivered simulated sentiments like a Swiss townhall clock parading its figurines on the stroke of the hour. It served up a love affair between a rich WASP Harvard jock and a pretty, poor, dirty-talking diluted-ethnic girl, in dialogue that was glib, contemporary-collegiate and sometimes funny. At the end the heroine expired in a death scene that suggested Oscar Wilde's dictum that "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing"—of a disease with the symptomology of a bad case of mono. Yet in the moment of bathos, most readers could no more resist tears than readers of "Jaws" could resist shivers. As Kurt Vonnegut said, the book was as hard to put down as a chocolate éclair….

Erich Segal has now delivered up a sequel, "Oliver's Story," in which a still-grieving Oliver is discovered in the throes of a bad case of survivor guilt. He tries a shrink and jogging, but is unable to follow the advice of his menschy father-in-law, Phil Cavilleri, and find himself a girl. But then the gorgeous, athletic, smart, blonde Marcie Nash comes jogging around the Central Park Reservoir and into Oliver's life. (p. 6)

Actually, as a sequel, "Oliver's Story" is a decent enough job. Good marathoner that he is, Segal is trying all the way, but one senses him...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

Dorothy Sinclair

In these days when tempus has a way of so quickly fugiting, it scarcely seems seven years since Erich Segal taught us that love means never having to say you're sorry. Well, Oliver, of the ill-fated brief marriage of Love Story, apparently had plenty of time to feel sorry, and to do a little guilt-wallowing in the two years after the untimely death of his wife, Jenny. Segal picks his story up at that point, showing us [in Oliver's Story] a faithful, work-driven, dedicated-only-to-his-law-practice, Oliver….

Segal has found the formula. Having created Love #1 as poor as a church-mouse, he elects to make Love #2 as rich as Croesus. The adorable Marcie matches Ollie, cashmere for cashmere, auto for auto, mansion for mansion. It all comes out, finally, in the Boston wash, and Oliver ends up with a real purpose in life, at last.

This critic must admit that Segal spins quite a tale and has a style that certainly works for this Hollywood-oriented genre. Witty rather than weighty, the novel provides a few hours of diversionary reading that should make Avon Paperbacks not one whit sorry for the price they coughed up for the rights. (p. 30)

Dorothy Sinclair, in West Coast Review of Books (copyright 1977 by Rapport Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. 3, No. 3 (May, 1977).

H. T. Anderson

In an age of the spin-off and the follow-up, maybe it isn't too surprising that Erich Segal has decided to give us "Son of Love Story." It's also no great revelation that it is a predictable book and easy to knock. Like its predecessor, Oliver's Story is mawkishly corny but infinititely more whining. (p. 73)

The reader, ironically, discovers a strange kind of truth. Witness some dialogue:

Please (Oliver says) understand. We aren't "living together." Although it's been a summer of excitement. It's true we eat together, talk together, laugh (and disagree) together, sleep together under the same roof (i.e., my basement). But neither party has acknowledged an arrangement.

This sounds like the kind of capricious absurdity found in fables, but it isn't. There are people who think like this. Perhaps Mr. Segal has unwittingly given us a mirror for the times. The book is filled with "right-on" issues and "right-on" people, bright people (legal and energetic and concerned) who punctuate with four-letter words and are covered with youth and honesty.

Mr. Segal does have his way with this sort of thing, but Oliver's Story is a soupy bore. (p. 74)

H. T. Anderson, in Best Sellers (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), June, 1977.