Monday, March 10, 2014
The Graduate - Charles Webb
The Graduate works on dialogue. It is pacey and plausible, telling a compelling and - as many people have seen the film - familiar story of a young man, Benjamin Braddock, who has an affair with an older woman, Mrs Robinson. Braddock is engaging in a cringe-worthy sense; I found myself wanting repeatedly for him to say/do things, when I knew all along that he was going to say/do the opposite. The outcome was unsettling for me as a reader; I enjoyed and disliked the character at once.
What did not convince me was the alternative romance - his love for Mrs Robinson's daughter, Elaine. Webb takes it as self-evident that Benjamin and Elaine love each other, and doesn't bother to tell us why - he rather provides many reasons why the innocence-personified Elaine should have nothing to do with the selfish, drunken, dishonest, corrupted, spoilt and demanding Benjamin. My temptation then is to say that the romance fails; and to imagine - along with Mr Robinson - that after a few weeks in bed together the couple will tire of each other and go their separate ways.
In consequence, I would recommend this book if you wish to discover that life is dark and meaningless, a misery of failed hopes before you die. If, by contrast, you like your romances warm, meaning-giving, then you will probably feel a little hollow at the end, just as I did.