What can you say about a 70s hit?
It's like a dare in reverse.
Assure me that "you have to read this book", and a little neuron deep within my gray matter commences to flash in a no-I-don't- you-can't- make-me sequence. Not coincidentally, I'm often the last in my crowd to pick up trendy titles--The Hunger Games, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Help, etc.
On the other hand, should the recommendation be couched in terms of "it reminds me of that other book you told me about and I loved" or "too slow-moving for me but you'd go for it", I'll chart a beeline for the bookshelf.
I did just finish the recent and gushed-over Defending Jacob yesterday and judge the mass approval to be entirely justified. Seriously, you have to read it.
But the soon-to-be-available (June) The Innocents by Francesca Segal sounds exactly my cup of tea. Reviewers note its thematic similarity to Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, so it gets English major points (even more so because it also calls Zadie Smith to mind). Morever, I adore first novels, and not only is Segal a debut novelist, she's been--according to her homepage-- authoring the "Debut Fiction" column in The Observer for three years. And, while the premise should be engrossing, it doesn't promise to achieve blockbuster status--extra credit for potential mild obscurity. (I'll be thrilled should sales prove me wrong on this point.)
Speaking of popular hits, though, you should know that Francesca is the daughter of Erich Segal, well regarded as a Yale classics professor but unfortunately more celebrated for his 1970 bestseller, Love Story. Segal's 2010 obituary in The New York Times quoted a Variety article naming Love Story "the first of the modern-day blockbusters."
The writeup further asserts that the film version of Segal's book salvaged the finances of Paramount Pictures, "which was facing imminent destruction". At this point in my background-checking of the Segals and Love Story, numerous Fun Facts began to surface. I was reminded, for example, that Harvard classmates Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones were said (by Segal) to have inspired aspects of the Oliver character and Oliver's troubled relationship with his father.
According to Mr. Segal's Washington Post obituary, Love Story was nominated for the National Book Award, but judges threatened to resign unless it was withdrawn.
Did you know that Erich Segal received writing credit for (among other movie projects, including the screenplay for Love Story) the Beatles' Yellow Submarine?
And now I can wield a comeback the next time someone rolls his/her eyes dismissively at English-major books: Tommy Lee Jones majored in English.