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 flailing about early in the course. He is handicapped by having done away with Jenny in his last book, and her wisecracks are sorely missed; Marcie is not all that entertaining—or involving—a love interest, and the reader doesn't care much whether or not Oliver works it out with her. Still, towards the end of the book Segal gets second wind, and his effort pays off. The closing scenes, such as the Christmas Marcie and Oliver spend at the Barrett mansion, work; and the ending, in terms of Oliver's ultimate fate, has a nice fitness about it. So one almost forgets the previous voguish cause-dropping and the style, which at times resembles the offspring of a marriage between Holden Caulfield and That Cosmopolitan Girl. "Oliver's Story" is no laurel winner, but Segal ran his own race, and I give him that. The philosophical question of the day is, had no "Love Story" existed, would it have been necessary to invent this book? (p. 7)
Richard R. Lingeman, "The Son of 'Love Story'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 6, 1977, pp. 6-7.
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...
(The entire section is 910 words.)