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Archive for May 23rd, 2014

by Sam Juliano

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?  That she was beautiful.  And brilliant.  That she loved Mozart and Bach.  And the Beatles.  And me.  Once, when she specifically lumped me with those musical types, I asked her what the order was, and she replied, smiling, “Alphabetical.”  At the time I smiled too.

Thus begins the novella that took the country by storm in 1970, leaving some macho men blubbering and enhancing the stock of tissue companies everywhere.  The year’s #1 bestseller with five-and-a-half million copies sold was a debut work written by a Yale graduate named Erich Segal.  People read it in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, on the buses and subways, and even in some schools.  In short order it became a pop-culture phenomenon.  I first encountered it at age 16, choosing it from a reading list in my sophomore English class.  My teacher, Patrick J. Shelley, who is now retired and living in Connecticut, was one of the coolest educators I’ve ever had the fortune of connecting with.  Our semester grade was determined by how many pages we read from an extensive reading list that included some choices that most teachers wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  The list included stuff like Portnoy’s Complaint, Mickey Spillane, the Mack Bolan “Executioner” series, and even The Godfather, which published in 1969.  One of the hot topics that school year was the infamous “Page 28” which graphically described Sonny Corleone’s tryst.

In order to get full credit for the books you read you had to pass an “interview” with Shelley at his desk.  To this day I remember some of the questions he threw out at me to confirm I had read Love Story.  One was to identify the actual focus of Oliver’s attention when he watched Jennifer Cavilleri study (her legs), another, what Oliver called his father (sonavabitch) and still what Jennifer said to Oliver after he refused to pick up the phone to speak to his father (“You are a heartless bastard.”)  At the time we were excited to read curse words in books we read for class, but years later it is easy enough to see that the populist Segal was hopelessly coy, and that Love Story as a novel is rather shameless.   (more…)

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