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Paul Cowan '62 and Erich Segal '58 came to different Harvard Square stores yesterday to chat with different sets of well-wishers and sign copies of their very different books.
The morning found Cowan in Reading International, standing behind a table laden with copies of his Making of an Un-American. Quiet conversations with people in the tight knot that surrounded him relieved his admitted embarrassment at the autograph ritual. "Don't look at me as if I were a celebrity, " he laughed. "They just told me to push the book."
Critical recognition of Cowan's writing dates back to 1963, when as a CRIMSON editor he garnered the Dana Reed Prize for the year's best piece of undergraduate writing. He has since moved on to such journals as Ramparts, Commentary, and the Village Voice.
Cowan described his Harvard experience as part of the gradual disillusionment traced in Making, his first book. He spoke freely to his admirers about the frustration of his early-sixties involvement in the Civil Rights movement and the Peace Corps.
The conversation surrounding Erich Segal's appearance at the Coop Annex was of a distinctly different nature. Segal lounged easily behind a display desk, rocking forward to sign copies of his Love Story and lurching back again to punch out a joke or emphasize a point.
He focused his excitement on as many of the onlookers as he could, coaxing out an introduction from each and dispensing in return commands to "be remembered" by old Harvard friends.
He seemed particularly thrilled to meet. residents of Dunster House ("Why, I spent most of my life here writing in J-whatever-it-was.") and students who were extras in the movie version of Love Story, parts of which were recently shot on campus.
Segal, who co-authored the Yellow Submarine script and currently teaches Comparative Literature at Yale, expressed confusion at some of the public response to his novel. He said that readers have faulted him for having "no intellectual purpose" in Love Story.
Though he described the book's effect as "instinctual," Segal claimed that the Ladies' Home Journal's condensed reproduction of his story "talked to thirteen million women who otherwise wouldn't have been reached about what youth is doing."
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