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, the Beatles, and me? Once I asked her in what order, and she said "alphabetically". I don't know if considered me by my surname, in which case I would be there between Bach and the Beatles, or if she.......
I first read Erich Segal's 'Love Story' when I was in my
Sophomore year in college, and fell hopelessly in love with Jennifer Cavalieri and Oliver Barrett IV. I could quote huge chunks of the book, and with some effort would be able to recall most of the exchanges even now. A friend and I even had this game going - one of us would throw out a line, the other would give the next one, and we would go on till we reached the end of that section. Neither of us ever faultered, neither could find fault with the other's memory.
'The Class' was the second of his books that I read, and though I did not think it would be possible, I liked it even more than I did 'Love Story'. Doctors, Prizes, Acts of Faith - I loved everything of his that I read. For a very long period, he remained if not my favourite author, definitely one of my favourite authors.
Erich Segal passed away the day I was running a marathon. I missed the announcement of his passing, and would never have known if the friend with whom I used to have the 'Love Story' marathons hadn't written to tell me that 'a part of our shared youth' passed away. I haven't read any of his books in years, but hearing about his demise felt almost like a part of my youth being takne away from me.
Through his orbituary, I came to know things about him that I never did till then - that he was born into the Jewish faith (should have guessed that), that he was a classics scholar and literary critic, and that at one time, both the men in the race for the US Presidentship had been students of his.
Tonight, I am going to pull out a well thumbed copy of one of his books and cry myself to sleep. And one day soon, I will buy 'Oliver's Story' and 'Man, Woman and Child' - two books which I unexplicably put off reading. Perhaps I subconsciously knew there would not be too many more books, and that was my way of dragging out the pleasure.
(June 16, 1937- January 17, 2010)
Requiescat in pace
Requiescat in pace
I leave with perhaps my favourite exchange between Jenny and Oliver-
"Aren't you a good Catholic girl?""I am good, and I am a girl. Two out of three isn't bad, is it?"