ERIC SEGAL DIED LAST WEEK.
Oh, yeah, and Probert B. Parker, too.
Does that convey typographically that I was annoyed by the coverage of their deaths? Well, I was peeved, anyway. In fact, I had a near Mother Teresa moment. She and Princess Diana, recall, died within days of each other in 1997, and the coverage seemed stunningly lopsided. Oh, dear God, Di has been taken from us! How can any of us cope with our grief? She can never be replaced! The world mourns! Oh, yeah, and some nun expired. Worked with the poor or something.
Now, sometimes, death isn't fair. Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis died on the same day, and that should have been big news, but there was hardly a peep about it, because it happened to be on Nov. 22, 1963. But it is beyond unfair when the death of someone destined for sainthood is overshadowed by our fawning, faux grief for a pretty celebrity.
I wrote an editorial to that effect. And the publisher spiked it -- first time that ever happened to me. Why? I asked. Well, I was told, many of our readers loved Di and are mourning her passing. But that's just the point, I said. They should care more about Teresa's death.
You never win an argument with a publisher. So all that day, in what became known as Leo's Teresa Meltdown, I made trips to the outside area where the smokers gathered, waving a printout of my pulled editorial and shoving it in people's faces. "Want to read an editorial about Mother Teresa not getting the respect she deserved in death?" I would say (shout, according to some observers). "Well, take a look, because this is the only place you can ever read it!" Nothing was accomplished, but I felt better.
Now, I don't mean to compare Eric Segal to Princess Di, and certainly not Robert B. Parker to Mother Teresa. But the coverage of their deaths was similarly lopsided.
Segal may have been a fine college professor, but the only thing he ever did to catch the public's attention was write "Love Story," one of the sappiest, most insipid, poorly written novels of all time, which was turned into "Love Story" the film, one of the sappiest, most insipid, poorly acted movies of all time. Love means never having to say you're sorry. That was it, the sum total of Segal's contribution to the public good. But his obit got the full treatment everywhere. From The New York Times:
The novel spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list. It has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into many languages.
Released to great fanfare on the book's coattails, the movie, starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, appeared at the end of 1970. In a 2000 article, Variety called it “the first of the modern-day blockbusters,” writing that it had grossed nearly $200 million and saved its studio, Paramount Pictures, “which was facing imminent destruction.”
“Love Story” received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Mr. Segal's screenplay; it won the Oscar for best original score.
Pretty good run for "Love Story," and it brought Segal enough fame to earn his place in pop culture, but then he went back to academic obscurity, publishing books that no one read.
Much less was made of Robert B. Parker's death. I heard Segal's death mentioned several times on TV, Parker's none. The Times had a very good obit, talking about the characters he created and how influential he was on other writers. But that's not the one run by many of the papers that put Segal at the top of their obit page. The paper I saw that set me off had a couple of sentences about Parker under the Segal obit. He wrote detective novels.
Yeah about 60 of them, in the mode of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, lean, tough novels, but with modern sensibilities -- unlike almost all other private eyes, his character Spenser was in a committed relationship. Parker created intriguing characters and complex plots and made attempts at psychological insights.
And all of his books, added together, sold 4 million copies worldwide. But "Love Story" sold "tens of millions." Now that I've vented, guess I can't really blame the media.
But I do feel better.