My memory is playing tricks on me. Sometimes it tells me that I haven't yet read a particular book, and then I read it thinking for the first time, and everything just seems so familiar. Or sometimes I think I have read a book, but when I try to recall the plot, I haven't a clue. Pride and Prejudice is an example of the former; Carol Shields' Stone Diaries, of the latter.
And then there is this -- Erich Segal's Love Story. I don't know if it belongs to the former or the latter category. I must have read it. Everybody did. But I can't tell for sure.
Most of the people in my book group have read it so they were able to compare the feeling of reading it in their youth to the feeling of reading it now.
Reading it produced the strangest situation of everything being familiar. Why not? Love Story is a composite of tried and tested formulas for love stories. Rich boy meets poor girl. With all too familiar elements that spice up novels and movies -- opposing parents, a sense of you and I against the world, love against all odds, tragedy, and other love story clichés. That was intentional, according to our book club moderator. Erich Segal, literature professor, really wanted to use all those elements to, I guess, prove a point. And he wrote a movie that was so well loved; it could now be considered a classic. And the book that followed the movie sold millions.
The most fluid and clearest of writing makes this a very easy read. Segal is a talented and disciplined writer. The dialog is witty and just a smidge cheesy. You don’t want to, but you find yourself saying awww. It’s good. Yes, a “but” is about to follow. But I am a very selfish reader. Good writing is not enough. Plot and characters are important, but ultimately it is about the book striking a chord, serving as a mirror to my own life and thoughts. Yes, there has to be something about me somewhere. Stop rolling your eyes; I admitted I’m self-absorbed. And Love Story, to me, is just a story.
I guess what I'm saying is that I'm too old and jaded to appreciate Love Story. Not that I'm too old to appreciate falling in love, but this story really just skims the surface of love and relationships and marriage and family. My own relationships are way more complex, certainly not as pretty or novel-worthy, but they carry the scars of deeper hurts, uglier sins, graver losses. The wit and the kilig (romantic thrill) of the novel are nothing compared to the joys of real-life love. Death, cancer, and the premature end of a marriage are not things to be blasé about, but these have become all too common. So many movies and books have come after Love Story, employing the same basic plot but with more dramatic twists. More real-life dramas have hit closer to home. Love Story is a nice read. And, well, that’s it.