A montage of scenes from Love Story set to the chart-topping single recorded by Andy Williams; music by Francis Lai, lyrics by Carl Sigman.

Love and Yellow Submarines
Erich Segal
June 16, 1937-January 17, 2010

In the end a life came down to one novel. A Yale classics professor with both master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard who also taught at Princeton, Oxford and the University of London and authored an important study of the playwright Plautus (Roman Laughter) among his many books, Erich Segal vaulted into pop culture infamy in 1970 with the the publication of his first novel, Love Story, the critically savaged, class-conscious tale of a pair of Harvard students who fall in love and marry over the objections of the young man’s highbrow family, only to have their bliss upended by the girl’s death. The novel spent more than a year on the New York Times best-seller list, sold millions of copies and has been translated into 33 languages. Segal's screenplay for his story of Oliver Barrett IV (played in the movie by Ryan O’Neil) and working class Jennifer Cavilleri (portrayed by Ali McGraw) was one of seven Academy Award nominations for Love Story, which took home the Oscar for best original score (by Francis Lai). Its wildly popular theme song, with lyrics by one of the great American pop songwriters, Carl Sigman, was a #1 pop single for Andy Williams and remains one of the most covered pop songs in history. Before Love Story made him so popular, Segal’s most significant cultural contribution came as one of several writers who collaborated on the acclaimed animated Beatles film, Yellow Submarine.

Never popular with critics, sometimes coming off arrogant and abrasive in interviews, Segal won the lasting affection of generations of Love Story readers. The New York Times obituary of Segal published on January 20 contained several snarky references to his work and talent (“She dies, he cries and the story ends” was the description of Love Story’s plot twist), such as, “The novel’s prose style ran from the telegraphic…to what might easily be taken as comic.” After listing some of Segal’s other academic books of note, the Times obit concluded: “None has appeared on The Times’s best-seller list,” a totally gratuitous insult.

The obit in fact prompted a reader in Wallingford, PA, to speak up in defense of Segal and Love Story. In a letter published in the January 22 edition, Emily Farrell wrote:

“Accepting that Love Story is not War and Peace, I find that the book still resonates with my 11th-grade students 40 years after it was published.

“When a 16-year-old boy whispers that he cried at the end of the novel, I give Erich Segal credit for doing what he did very well.

“A colleague who is a Princeton graduate reminded me that she had read the book in my class and also loved it.

“Give it up, intellectual snobs; the book is a classic of its own kind.”

Erich Segal was born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 16, 1957, the son of Samuel Segal, a rabbi, and the former Cynthia Shapiro. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for some 30 years when he died from a heart attack on January 17 in his London home. He was buried in London. He is survived by his wife, the former Karen James, whom he married in 1975; two daughters, Miranda and Francesca Segal, the latter being a freelance journalist, literary critics and currently the Debut Fiction columnist for The Observer; his mother, Cynthia Zeger of Manhattan; and two brothers, David, of Manhattan, and Thomas, of Baltimore.

In a eulogy for her father, Francesca extolled his determination in the face of daunting odds as he battled Parkinson’s, and saw in his unflagging will what she remembers as his approach to every other challenge in his life. "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."

Buy it at www.amazon.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024