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If you read it anyplace else, it's not Really Legal!
Zick Rubin’s columns on the lighter side of publishing and intellectual property law.
Ted and Ollie
August 25, 1999 | Now that Campaign 2000 is heating up and the candidates' early lives are being scrutinized, it is time to debunk once and for all the reports that the young Al Gore was the inspiration -- even in a small way -- for the character of Oliver Barrett IV in Erich Segal's bestselling "Love Story," published in 1970. In actuality, as most of us Ivy-covered literary sleuths have long known, Oliver Barrett IV (Harvard '63) was based not on Gore (Harvard '69) but on Theodore Kaczynski (Harvard '62).
The similarities are clear enough:
- Both Ted and Oliver entered Harvard at the unusually early age of 16.
- Both were academic prodigies: Oliver was third in his class at Harvard Law. Ted published five articles in mathematical journals before he was 25, long before he became the Unabomber.
- Oliver was the prototypical Harvard preppie. Ted lived in Eliot House, Harvard's preppiest house. Segal (Harvard '58, Ph.D. '64) wanted to be a preppie and used to run past Eliot House all the time.
If anyone can still doubt that Theodore Kaczynski is Oliver Barrett IV in the face of this compelling evidence, the following newly unearthed document will bury these doubts forever.
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Tentative Title: Love Manifesto
By Erich Segal
What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?
That she was repelled by the industrial-technological system. That she loved the Montana Woods and Nature and Ammonium Nitrate. And me. Once, when she specifically lumped me with those other items, I asked her what the order was, and she replied, smiling, "Alphabetical." At the time I smiled too. But now I lie in my cabin and wonder whether she was listing me by my first name -- in which case I would come in dead last -- or by my last name, in which case I would edge in there between Ammonium Nitrate and Montana.
Either way, I don't come first, which for some stupid reason bothers hell out of me and makes me feel like sending a virulent computer worm to some Yalie.
In the fall of my senior year, I got into the habit of studying at the Radcliffe library. The place was quiet, nobody knew me -- actually, I had never even met most of my roommates -- and the reserve books were less in demand.
The day before my History 1333 exam, I still hadn't gotten around to reading the first book on the list, since I had been protesting the invention of movable type. I ambled over to the reserve desk. There were two girls working there. One an athletic, tennis-anyone type, the other a horse-faced, serious type. I opted for Eleanor Roosevelt. "Do you have 'Violence in America: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives'?"
She looked at me like I was crazy.
"Do you have your own library?" she asked.
"Listen, Harvard is allowed to use the Radcliffe library." OK, maybe I was gratifying my need for the power process through identification with an institution, but I really needed that goddamn book.
"I'm not talking legality, dweeb. I'm talking numbers. You guys have 5 million books. We have a few lousy thousand." For a minute I thought she might be a hypersensitive oversocialized masochistic feminist leftist whiner.
"Listen, chick," I said, pulling out a line I once heard at a lecture at the Busch-Reisinger Museum. "Your problem is that you're living under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved."
"Whaddaya, some kind of Soc Rel major?"
"Math," I said. "Mostly Wedderburn's theorem."
"And I'm Nate Pusey's illegitimate daughter." Her eyes were brown.
Soon we were sitting in the Midget Restaurant, a nearby sandwich joint which, as its name implied, was populated by people not only with inferiority feelings in the strictest sense but also with a whole spectrum of related traits: low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, guilt, self-hatred, etc.
I ordered two coffees and a dish of wild roots.
"I'm Juniper Cappuccino," she said, "an American of Italian descent." As if I couldn't tell from the grated Romano cheese that she kept sprinkling in her coffee.
"And a library science major," she added. That was the limit.
"Juniper, Radcliffe doesn't have a library science major."
"I go to Simmons, nerd. I really am from the wrong side of the tracks." I accidentally knocked over her coffee and it all landed in her lap.
I decided it might be smart to plead guilty. "I'm s-s-s-s-s-s ..." I stammered.
"Stop!" She cut off my apology, then said quietly, "Wonks like you are so klutzy that it's a pain in the butt always having to hear you say you're sorry."
Copyright © 1999 by Zick Rubin