Monday, June 27, 2011

Benjamin, do you want me to seduce you?

I am currently wrapping up reading Charles Webb's The Graduate, published in 1963. It was a free Kindle read---so I figured, what they heck? But reading it, I was struck by how closely the film followed the book. I mean almost line by line and quote by quote. It's impossible to read the line: "Benjamin, is that what you want? Do you want me to seduce you?" without hearing Anne Bancroft's growly cougar voice.

Of course, Webb's writing is so sparse, it could have served as a script. So sparse that one wondered how it got published---this is Heminway sparse, with little to no description. And perhaps its sparsity is part of its brilliance. The novel's humor isn't slowed in any way...instead there is satiric setup and delivery with the commentary coming in the white spaces.

Webb is an interesting individual, and an author who never really capitalized on a chance to make it big in the literary world. While most people have read seen the film, relatively few who enjoyed that experience read the supposedly semi-autobiographical novel. Not that The Graduate wasn't a best seller in 1963, but it could have opened so many doors to the eccentric Mr. Webb, who has written several other novels.

In 2006, Mr.Webb wrote the sequel to The Graduate. The book, which many approached skeptically, detailed life for Benjamin and Elaine Braddock some twenty years after the end of the first novel. According to the description for Homeschool, the story once again involves Mrs. Robinson, who moves in with the couple in their upstate New York abode after the death of Mr. Robinson. She digs in and the couple contrive to drive her out by bringing in a counter-culture family of homeschoolers. Admittedly the premise sounds weak; it probably wouldn't have passed as a pilot on Fox, but many who have read the book have given it mild acceptance.


Sidney said...

I need to sit down and read that. I have a paper copy, an old library discard, though it's on my Kindle now too.

Always liked the movie and the Simon and Garfunkle songs. I think Webb was pretty counter culture and gave away the proceeds from the novel, if memory serves. I need to Google him.

Charles Gramlich said...

didn't even know this was a book. the writer sounds pretty interesting though. May have to look him up, like Sid

Joe Ponepinto said...

Oh, I think Fox would do it.

FYI on the video you have showing the end of the movie, where Ben and Elaine are sitting in the back of the bus: that ethereal, iconic close, praised by critics as a perfect moment of optimism and regret, was an accident. The director forgot to say cut and the camera was left running. When they saw it in the rushes they knew they had to leave it in.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Sidney, he's a strange duck. I'm not sure counter-culture is the word for it. should look at it, if only for study purposes. It's amazing how there is never ANY interior dialog going on.

Joe...I think I remember reading that somewhere about the ending. Fascinating. As I read the book I kept asking myself about the characters and analyzing them over and over and coming to the conclusion that Elaine and Ben deserve each other..they are probably the two most shallow and empty people in fiction.