Segal, Erich (Vol. 10)
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.)
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.)
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).
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.
Segal, Erich (Vol. 3)
Segal, Erich 1937–
An American educator, editor, translator, critic, and author of screenplays and a libretto, Segal gained fame for what is undoubtedly his least scholarly effort, the novel Love Story. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28.)
What can you say about a young author who identifies with his dying heroine and her hockey jock so as to wind up crying in paternal arms? That he gets to indulge his feminine impulses, and then be forgiven for them, in one of the most profitable and widely-shared acts of public wish-fulfillment in recent entertainment history? Or more fairly, that he gets to play the tender person he surely is against the tough one he would like to be, until the latter has been tenderized by love and grief? Either way the story reads more interestingly, and makes more sense, as the author's fantasy than as his sentimental art.
It makes more sense because the answer to the narrator's opening question, "What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?" is not the one which the book's title and much of its plot proposes: That she taught her Harvard athlete how to love; but rather That she taught him how to love his father. And it reads more interestingly because the homoerotic threat to that love, which the author's sentimental art disguises, is now exposed as the prominent clue to the story's resolution it really is. Love Story is the working out, through fantasy, of one man's role-confusions which, through sentimental art, has released the generation-bridging tears of modern millions. It is The Old Curiosity Shop of our time and Erich Segal is its Little Nell….
We may want to give Segal at least passing consideration for choosing his theme with Poe's deliberation and pursuing it with Dickens' zeal for popular success. He has done his predecessors one better, moreover, by making his young girl's death the occasion for reuniting a prejudiced father and his prideful son. This new twist could be important if it means that modern readers are responding sentimentally to a new kind of family romance, one in which the role-confusions of childhood may be "resolved" by a young girl's gallant sacrifice to the cause of male identity….
What seems particularly old-fashioned about Love Story is the idealization of its heroine. A wonder-girl like Little Nell, she is always right, always penetratingly wise, always courageous in the face of adversity, always loving and self-sacrificing. These ideal qualities are tempered by her systematic profanity by which we know she is authentic, and by her smartass putdowns of the hero by which we know she loves him. But otherwise she is the most nobly perfect young lady in popular fiction since Nell…. Jenny also lives and dies in accord with nineteenth-century myths of women as moral and spiritual guides for unworthy men and of young girls as the best and purest of those guides.
Mark Spilka, "Erich Segal as Little Nell, or The Real Meaning of Love Story," in Journal of Popular Culture, Spring, 1972, pp. 782-98.
Exactly what has made Love Story so phenomenally successful is something of a mystery. There are theories, but none of them fully explains what happened. Yes, it makes readers cry. Yes, it has nothing whatsoever to do with life today and encourages people to believe the world has not changed. Yes, as Segal points out, the book has almost no description; people tend to read themselves into it. And yes, it has come at a time when young people are returning to earlier ways.
Nora Ephron, in Esquire (first published in Esquire Magazine; copyright © 1971 by Esquire, Inc.), June, 1971, p. 152.