Yale classics professor Erich Segal spent the bulk of his life trying to overcome the schlocky reputation of his first novel, Love Story, which became a monster hit when it came out in 1970. “My identity is seriously imperiled right now,” he told the paper in a 1971 interview in which he defended criticism of the book and himself and bemoaned the toll its success had taken on his reputation as an academic. (After a spate of critical press, the university even denied him tenure.) But the Times, which has referred to the book as, among other things, “schmaltz,” “cheaply sentimental, self-pitying, gratuitous and slick,” had no sympathy — even when it came to Segal’s obituary, which was published today after his death from a heart attack on Sunday at age 72.
It begins by reminding the reader in the first paragraph that while the novel was “a staggering commercial success,” it was “not quite a critical one,” and it ends by kicking the man when he is most decidedly down:
His other books include “Greek Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism” (Harper & Row, 1983); “Oxford Readings in Aristophanes” (Oxford University, 1996); and “Oxford Readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence” (Oxford University, 2001), all of which he edited.
Way harsh, Times.