All You Need Is Love Story

 My well-worn copy of Love Story, published in 1970.

My well-worn copy of Love Story, published in 1970.

When I was 12 years old, my mother gave me her yellowed copy of "Love Story," a novel by Erich Segal that was published when she was a teenager. She was cleaning out the garage and saved the paperback from the yard sale pile, along with her collection of vinyl records including classic albums by Simon & GarfunkelCarly Simon, and Carole King that she thought I would enjoy. "Love Story" is the only novel I’ve ever read more than once; I've returned to it again and again because I was in love from the first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence:

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. But now I sit and wonder whether she was listing me by my first name –in which case I would trail Mozart –or by my last name, in which case I would edge in there between Bach and the Beatles. Either way I don’t come first, which for some stupid reason bothers the hell out of me, having grown up with the notion that I always had to be number one.
— From "Love Story" by Erich Segal

I vividly remember running my finger over the text, line by line, mouthing the words silently to myself at my desk in my 6th Grade Language Arts classroom during SSR (Sustained Silent Reading.) We were allowed to read whatever we wanted and I was sure the other kids weren’t reading books with curse words and sex in them.  I was besotted with the language Segal used, the casual tone of his narrator’s voice.

Oliver Barrett IV, a Harvard hockey jock (All-Ivy First Team,) career aim: Law, falls for Jennifer Cavilleri a “bespectacled mouse type,” a brain who works at the Radcliffe Library and plays piano with The Bach Society. She calls him Preppie, he calls her a snotty Radcliffe bitch, they flirt by batting intellectual insults and coy remarks back and forth. It’s not long before Oliver’s roommate is crashing on a friend's couch after coming home to find a tie hanging on the doorknob.

I haven’t kept an official count, but I’ve read "Love Story" eight or nine times now and I’ve seen the film starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw at least as many. Still, I’m always sobbing by the end. I do enjoy a good cry, and, a good story.