Erich Segal, the author of “Love Story”, died recently. His obituaries reveal him to be far more multidimensional than just the writer of this very popular book and film – which as Segal himself said – could be read in an hour and a half (it took me 2 enjoyable hours to read .. and I would also recommend the Mad Magazine spoof of it).
Born in New York, Segal was the son of a rabbi and studied foreign languages, including Hebrew, from a young age, according to the Washington Post. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1958, then a master’s degree in classics and a doctorate in comparative literature.
In 1972, two years after the movie “Love Story” became a box office hit and pop icon and Segal became a favourite on the talk-show circuit, the author and scholar was denied tenure at Yale. Among his students at the Ivy League university were George W. Bush and Al Gore.
He wrote several screenplays, including earning a writing credit for the Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” As part of the script, he included the words “Funny, you don’t look Blue-ish”. The Beatles didn’t get it, but Segal assured them that some of the audience would find it funny (which they did).
After leaving Yale, Segal continued to publish best-selling novels, as well as research works on ancient literature. He settled in England, where he was a fellow at Oxford University’s Wolfson College.
He ran 10 miles a day and competed in the Boston Marathon until being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the mid-1980s.
Melanie Phillips, who was a friend of his and his family in London, wrote an excellent obituary. Phillips, who will be visiting and lecturing in Australia soon .. and will be well worth seeing .. provided this perspective “Even when he was so ill, however, he continued to write and plan more books and his house was often filled with friends, love and laughter. Even then his passion for ideas, for keeping in touch, his wit, his anecdotes about the great and not-so-good whom he had known well (he would entertain and shock us equally with his revealing accounts of the duplicitous behaviour of Edward Said, for example, or Al Gore who had falsely claimed to have been the inspiration for Love Story), his Jewish learning and his deep love for Israel and passionate indignation over the way it was being traduced and defamed — all these incandescent lights that illuminated Erich‘s character remained resolutely undimmed.”
Reading about Segal has encouraged me to gird my loins to continue reading a tome of his than was recently loaned to me: his 525 page “Acts of Faith”, which promises to “reach across more than a quarter of a century, from the tough streets of Brooklyn to ultramodern Brasilia to an Israeli kibbutz, radiating the splendor of two holy cities, Rome and Jerusalem … As for the characters … “They met as children, innocents from two different worlds. And from that moment their lives were fated to be forever entwined. Timothy : Abandoned at birth, he finds a home–and a dazzling career–within the Catholic Church. But the vows he takes cannot protect him from one soul-igniting passion. Daniel : The scholarly son of a great rabbi, he is destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. And destined to break his father’s heart. Deborah : She was raised to be docile and dutiful–the perfect rabbi’s wife–but love will lead her to rebellion. And into world’s the patriarch would never dare imagine.”
But returning to Love Story – one line that always sounded good but seemed to mean very little was the famous “love means not ever having to say you’re sorry”.
Saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is an important part of Tshuva – especially to people you love – so here is one commentary that expressed this quite well.