At 6 this morning I finished book three in my attempt to read 10 books this month. Having finished three books in only 6 days puts me ahead of schedule! Swish!
I’ve had The Graduate by Charles Webb on my “to do list” for a few years now, because the movie which was based on it is one of my favorites. I would share the trailer for the film here now, but the only trailer I can seem to find is three minutes long and literally tells the entire story.
Here is the synopsis of the novel as written on the back cover:
When Benjamin Braddock graduates from a small Eastern college and moves home to his parents’ house, everyone wants to know what he’s going to do with his life. Embittered by the emptiness of his college education and indifferent to his grim prospects — grad school? a career in plastics? — Benjamin falls haplessly into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the relentlessly seductive wife of his father’s business partner. It’s only when beautiful coed Elaine Robinson comes home to visit her parents that Benjamin, now smitten, thinks he might have found some kind of direction in his life. Unfortuately for Benjamin, Mrs. Robinson plays the role of protective mother as well as she does the one of mistress. A wondrously fierce and absurd battle of wills ensues, with love and idealism triumphing over the forces of corruption and conformity.
The novel is really bare-bones, that is the best way I can describe it. It is literally almost all dialogue, and somehow it manages to build a story and images with as little description possible. Honestly, it’s probably written in a way that any college English professor would throw back in a student face and tell them to get real. But somehow it works for this novel! Having read it, I can’t imagine it written any other way. Also, I think the way that it was written lends itself to film really well, which may be why the movie was such a success.
Here is an excerpt, as it is written exactly in the novel:
“Dad, for what it was worth I did the whole tour. I talked to farmers. I talked to-”
“What would you talk to them about.”
“Their crops. What else do they know how to talk about.”
“Who else did you talk to.”
“I talked to tramps. I talked to drunks. I talked to whores.”
“Yes Dad, I talked to whores. One of them swiped my watch.”
“A whore stole your wristwatch?”
“Not while you were talking to her.”
Mr. Braddock looked down at the rug. “Then you – then you spent the night with a whore.”
“There were a few whores included on the tour, yes.”
-Charles Webb, The Graduate
I’ve read reviews online that say the reason this novel will never be a classic is because of the way it is written. I’m taking the opposite stand point. It’s obvious that every single novel can’t be written the way The Graduate was, but the fact that it works for this novel makes it unique. Besides, the character Mrs. Robinson is classic, so that gives it brownie points, right?
I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It’s not really like anything I’ve read before. It is a novel about nothing really, and it works.
In closing, I leave you with Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence from the film. My husband has convinced me that this song is about aliens. Listen to the lyrics, what do you think?