- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 05 August 2010
- Modern & Contemporary
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I read Charles Webb's THE GRADUATE back when it was new, and I loved it. His dialogue was cinematically good, which explains why it translated so well into film. I still remember the advice the newly graduated Benjamin Braddock got from a friend of his parents: "Ben, one word. Plastics." It was emblematic of the materialistic world he was entering. No wonder he succumbed so numbly to the advances of Mrs. Robinson, drifting aimlessly. I've read the book a few more times in the ensuing decades, and, personally, I think it holds up well, not only as literature, but as a document of those times. It could be interesting and useful supplementary reading for sociology classes today. And just as a footnote, I kinda liked Webb's subsequent novel too, MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER, which also became a film, starring Richard Benjamin, I believe. I wonder what Webb is up to these days. In any case, THE GRADUATE is still good minimalist fiction, and will probably be around for a very long time. At least I hope it will be.
I found this novel intriguing because of its style: it was almost like reading a play. All of the subtleties are in the dialogue, either by the words chosen or by the silences. The obvious misunderstandings in the generations, the young adults naivete, the old adults cruelty all come together to create tension-filled relationships where lies, mislaid good intentions and disillusion dominate. I'm not sure I truly understand Mrs. Robinsons' motivation for evil (I don't think she was much interested in Benjamin) and the ending has a goofy optimism which clashes with the rest of the novel, but overall I very much enjoyed the break in tradition, questioning of values and triumph of the young. Definitely representative of an epoch.
The film is one of my all-time favourites, and the book really doesn't differ that much. It is nearly all dialogue so makes for a quick and easy read.
Spawned the hit movie, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. "Plastics!" The book has little description and is heavy on short snappy dialogue. Could be re-edited and released again as a better book.
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