You must be wondering... 'what an unusual topic'... right?? Well, let me explain... but before I do that, let me apologise for being somewhat regularly irregular (or should I say irregularly regular?) on my blog as well as on those that grace my bloglist. Don't blame me, blame my health. But rest assured... I'll read all of your posts... the ones I have missed that is, by and by.
Now the "Happy Birthday" bit is for my blog. My bloggy is now a one year old toddler... and learning to crawl. Actually one year and 4 days today... having been 'born' on 16th Jan., 2009... with the post titled "My First Blog with my Green Thumb!" (link). That was the day... I was finally able to get the better of procrastination and wrote my first post.
Since then my bloggy baby has grown into a healthy toddler... with readers spread over 111 countries (and growing), and an Alexa Traffic Rank of 278,709 (the lower the better). There is an eclectic mix of posts... which suits me fine... and I hope it suits you as well. The IndiRank has taken a tumble from 82 to 76... all because I wrote a post some 9 days later *sad face* Hopefully... it will travel northward soon *cheering up*
The requiem is for Erich Segal... the Ivy League classics professor whose first novel "Love Story" (written in 1970) - became a pop-culture phenomenon, selling more than 20 million copies in three dozen languages and spawning an iconic catchphrase of the 1970s. Erich Segal died at his home in London on Sunday (17th Jan., 2010) at the age of 72. According to his daughter Francesca Segal... he had Parkinson's disease and died of a heart attack. She said he had suffered from Parkinson's disease - a neurological condition that affects movement - for 25 years. His funeral was held in London on Tuesday (19th Jan., 2010).
"What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?" Segal wrote in the first line of the 1970 novel about star-crossed lovers, played in the blockbuster 1970 movie by Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal. Followed by: "That she was beautiful and brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. The Beatles. And me." Those two lines, summarizes this best-selling novel. There is also the memorable line: "Love means never having to say you're sorry". Spoken twice in the novel and the film; once by Jennifer aka Jenny (McGraw's character) when Oliver (O'Neal's character) is about to apologise to her for his anger. The second time, by Oliver... to his father when Mr. Barrett (his father) says, "I'm sorry" after hearing of Jennifer's death... at the hospital.
The sentimental romance provoked tidal waves of tears and turned its author into a sensation practically overnight. His success unleashed "egotism bordering on megalomania," as Segal said of himself, that helped set off a backlash: He was denied tenure at Yale and "Love Story" was ignominiously bounced from the nomination slate of the National Book Awards after the fiction jury threatened to resign.
"It is a banal book which simply doesn't qualify as literature," said Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and fiction jurist William Styron. The National Book Award for fiction that year went to Saul Bellow for "Mr. Sammler's Planet." Needless to say... yours truly has never heard of William Styron. Saul Bellow. Who??
Segal nonetheless continued to write, operating on two planes. He produced eight more works of popular fiction, including "Oliver's Story" (1977), "Man, Woman and Child (1983)", "The Class" (1985) and "Doctors" (1987). He also wrote the academic tomes "Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus" (1987) and "The Death of Comedy" (2001).
He taught at Princeton University, Dartmouth College and Brown University and was a visiting fellow at Wolfson College at Oxford University. The US-born writer was a classics professor at Yale University when he wrote the book "Love Story". Its movie version... directed by Arthur Hiller, with a plaintive, Henry Mancini-composed theme song that wouldn't quit, "Love Story" gained seven Oscar nominations - including one for Segal for writing the screenplay, as well as for best picture, best director and best actor and actress. It won one Oscar, for best music.
The son of a rabbi, Segal was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 16, 1937.
According to a 2008 essay by his daughter in Granta magazine, his early childhood was somewhat lonely: For the first six years of his life, he lived with his ailing grandmother and grandfather because his parents' apartment building did not allow children. Left in the care of nannies, he wrote and performed his own plays, which, Francesca Segal wrote, "served the dual purpose of creating a cast of characters he cared about, and making the cast of his own life care more about him." His father wanted him to become a rabbi, but Segal had other plans. He went to Harvard and graduated in 1958 with the dual honors of class poet and Latin salutatory orator. While completing his doctorate at Harvard, he became a lecturer at Yale in 1964, earned his doctorate in 1965 and by 1968 had risen to associate professor of classics and comparative literature.
As a release from the academic grind, he co-wrote with Joe Raposo a musical comedy called "Sing, Muse!" which ran off-Broadway for 39 performances. The reviews brought Segal to the attention of an agent, who helped him secure film work. Segal co-wrote the screenplay for the Beatles' movie "Yellow Submarine" (1968), which fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a Hollywood writer. Segal found himself flying back and forth to London and hobnobbing with the Beatles' legend John Lennon. Simultaneously he published works on Greek tragedy, Latin poetry and ancient athletics.
He wrote "Love Story" as a screenplay but was persuaded by his agent to turn it into a novel... since the latter was convinced it would ruin Segal's reputation as a writer of macho action screenplays. "Love Story" went through 21 hardcover printings in the first 12 months, and the first paperback run of 4.3 million copies was said to be the largest initial print order in publishing history. To quote Francesca, his daughter: "But it had poured from him in what felt like a single sitting and, although he could not have known to what extent, he knew it was worth fighting for." "The two monoliths that dominated my father's identity - the peak and the trough of his life - were 'Love Story' and Parkinson's disease," she added.
A slender 212 pages, this romantic, funny yet tragic "Love Story" is the story of 2 young college grads, whose love was stronger then any of the tests life threw at them. Oliver Barrett IV: a Harvard jock and a (very) rich scion or heir to the Barrett fortune and legacy. Jennifer Cavilleri: a working-class, quick-witted daughter of a Cranston, Rhode Island baker, with not much money, but lots of love. Oliver (Ollie) was expected to follow in his father's huge footsteps, while Jennifer (Jenny), a music major studying at Radcliffe College was to go on and study in Paris. Both come from very different worlds. But when they met, the sparks flew, and we get involved with them as their love grows deep and strong. The story of Jenny and Ollie is a realistic story of two young people who come from two separate worlds and are joined together in the most unlikely of ways. Jenny ultimately dies of a mysterious disease. (While this is not stated explicitly, Jenny appears to be suffering from leukemia).
It struck a chord that critics had difficulty deciphering. Nora Ephron, writing in Esquire, said the book's overwhelming popularity was "something of a mystery." But the chaste romance (it had no overt sex scenes) apparently had wide appeal in a culture that had lost its moorings in the wake of student protests, civil rights marches, assassinations, sexual revolutions and drug experimentation. Segal himself may have offered the best explanation of its success. In a 1970 Time magazine interview, he said: "It's awfully short. It's unabashedly sentimental. But before the end I cried and cried and cried - for 45 minutes. Then I washed my face and finished the book."
Segal would later say that Oliver was based in part on a couple of Harvard undergrad roommates (he knew while teaching at Harvard) who later became quite well known: Former US Vice President Al Gore and Hollywood actor-director Tommy Lee Jones (of The Fugitive, Batman Forever, Men in Black and No Country for Old Men fame). Segal disputed reports that Jenny was based on Gore's future wife, Tipper. Incidentally, in 1970, Jones landed his first film role, appropriately playing a Harvard student in "Love Story". At the 2000 Democratic National Convention, he presented the nominating speech for his college roommate, Al Gore, as the Democratic Party's nominee for the President of the United States.
The author became the darling of talk shows. He appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" four times in four weeks. He happily answered the clamor for interviews, offering statements that came back to bite him. He bragged about his popularity with his students, calling himself "kind of a folk hero at Yale." He compared himself to Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald. His "never having to say you're sorry" line was so readily absorbed at the lower reaches of the culture that it inspired takeoffs, such as the Santa Barbara dry cleaner that advertised its services on a sign that said "Bringing your clothes to us means never having to say you're soily."
Even O'Neal, whose star had risen with the "Love Story" movie, mocked it in the 1972 comedy "What's Up, Doc?" with Barbra Streisand. At the end of the film, when Barbra Streisand's character coos "Love means never having to say you're sorry" while batting her eyelashes, O'Neal's character deadpans: "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard." John Lennon countered that "Love means having to say you're sorry every 15 minutes."
One of Segal's few defenders was novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who told a Harvard audience that bashing "Love Story" was like "criticizing a chocolate eclair." After he was denied tenure at Yale, Segal moved to Europe. He married an English book editor, Karen James, in 1975. She survives him along with two daughters... Francesca, 29 and Miranda, 20.
Segal grew more cautious of celebrity, choosing to live in London for most of the last three decades. His famous first novel, he told The Times some years ago, "shot me out of the box. Totally ruined me. ... "But I'm not going to say I'm sorry."
At his funeral, his daughter Francesca spoke of the knowledge that had been destroyed by Parkinson's disease. "In (Tom) Stoppard's Arcadia, Thomasina mourns the burning of the library of Alexandria and the losses of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides - all of Aristotle's own library destroyed. And the image has for years made me think of my father, all his erudition and knowledge and wit and puns and stuff consumed in the flames of neurological disease," she said in a eulogy she delivered at his funeral and later e-mailed to the AP.
Paying tribute to her father's tenacity, she added: "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was - a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."
"Love Story" has not lost its power to move its readers. Forty years ago it had an entire generation in love and in tears... and still do. All I want to say is... Thank you Mr. Segal for those memorable and era-defining novels. Every book of yours has been and still remains a delightful read.
My sincere condolences to the family of a wonderful writer.
Author's Note: My post on the "Love Story" can be read: HERE.
The one on "Man, Woman and Child" can be read: HERE.
Note: Some info gathered courtesy Wikipedia.
Shalom: The Hebrew word SHALOM is understood around the world to mean peace. But peace is only one small part of the meaning of the word SHALOM. Here in Israel, even though we don't have much in the way of peace, we use the word SHALOM on a daily basis. We use it to greet people with, and we use it to bid farewell to people. However, SHALOM means much more than peace, hello or goodbye.
U.S. President Bill Clinton ended his eulogy for the assassinated (1995) Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin with the words "Shalom, chaver" (Goodbye, friend).
Erich Segal, seen here in 1980, was a classics professor at Yale University. (Maja Langsdorff/Associated Press).