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The Graduate by Charles Webb – A Review

THE GRADUATE by Charles Webb
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

When The Graduate, a book published in 1963 by recently deceased author Charles Webb, popped up as a Kindle Unlimited recommendation the other day, I thought to myself, why not? I mean, shouldn’t every fan of the movie version, a film which “is often ranked among the greatest, most quoted and talked about of all time,” feel obligated to read the source from which the film’s greatness was spawned?

The answer, of course, is yes.

So I read the book obligingly – it’s a fast read as the book weighs in at a slim 224 pages – and upon reflection, I didn’t realize it from the movie version, but The Graduate is essentially a continuation of The Catcher in the Rye. In other words, we essentially witness Holden Caulfield’s post-collegiate angst as channeled through Benjamin Braddock.

In the movie version Dustin Hoffman’s Braddock, as excellent and memorable as it is, comes across to me as more neurotic and whiney than angry and angsty as the character is portrayed in the novel. As I’m not a practicing psychologist, please don’t ask me to differentiate between the two as per the DSM-5 or whatever version the shrinks are now working off of.

However, as examples, when I, the layman psychologist that I am, think of neurotic-y (whiney) type actors in the vein of Hoffman’s Braddock, I easily think of Woody Allen (obviously), Owen Wilson, and Jesse Eisenberg.

However (once again), coming up with angsty type actors in the vein of Webb’s Braddock, that’s a little harder for me to pull off – Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison both come to mind (probably can blame it on Twilight), and perhaps Zack Braff. Of course on the extreme end of the angsty scale we have Christian Bale, whose several angsty roles often seem to teeter on the precipice of sanity.

Anyway, that’s my impression of the novel. So I give it a four-star, not so much for its literary achievements (because, honestly, it’s not that well-written (Just about everything is described as perfectly this or that; and for some reason, just about every character seems to have a hearing problem as they keep having to ask What? after something is said to them. Quite annoying; however, we see a similar case of the What’s in The Catcher in the Rye as well, so… take that for what it’s worth.)). But for a book written by a twenty-four-year old that becomes the foundation for such an important movie, hey, I can afford to grade on a curve and give it an extra star.

Incidentally, it’s interesting to me that both J.D. Salinger and Charles Webb were so disillusioned with society that one became a famous grouchy recluse and the other donated his book proceeds to charity and lived a chosen life of poverty.

How ’bout that?

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Speaking of Weird… Selection

So, if there were a “Literary Scale of Literary Weirdness,” how would today’s responses to today’s controversial prompt measure against it?

Well, to answer that question, I suppose we first need a “Literary Scale of Literary Weirdness” for which to measure them against.

Well, since I’m the one “with the ball,” so to speak in military jargon, I guess it’s up to me to set the bar, so to speak in Field & Track jargon.

Well, using American authors as the points on the scale, I would say that the highest level of weird, a perfect 10 in weirdness, would be Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. An average level of weird, a midland 5 in weirdness, would be Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. And the lowest level of weird, an absence of weird at 0, would be Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Well Yes, I realize that my scale is packed full with extremely white and even more extremely male authors. Could have something to do with my socialization process as a child. Not sure. However, please feel free to set your Literary Weird Scale based upon your own childhood socialization process. I won’t mind. I promise.

Well, I better not promise… I offend easily.

Anyway, now that we have a “Literary Scale of Literary Weirdness” for which to assess the weirdness level of our two submissions in response to today’s controversial prompt, I make the bold assessment that they both fall somewhere around the level of a 1 on the scale, which just may be something along the line of a Of Mice and Men (yes, I know…another white author dude) or a 2, which just may be a Kingsblood Royal (ditto on the white author dudeness…but at least Lewis was attempting to bring to literary light our white dude racist ways. Which, in and of itself, is pretty weird considering when the novel was written.).

Well, bottom line, then… based upon my assessment, utilizing our brand new “Literary Scale of Literary Weirdness,” today’s responses to our controversial prompt are highly weird depleted.

However, if we were to turn our “Literary Scale of Literary Weirdness” into a “Literary Scale of Literary Awesomeness” then I assess our two responses to today’s controversial prompt would be near off the high end of the scale.

That’s right… While the two submissions are hardly weird, they both are highly awesome.

Well So, seeing that trying to pick one submission over the other based upon both their literary weirdness and awesomeness is a wash, I guess we’ll have to come up with some other way to delineate between the two.

We could go by word count…

But that would hardly be fair seeing they are two distinct literary forms. And while, being rather tall, I tend to fall into the “bigger is better” camp; when it comes to the arts I fall more into the “less is more” camp. So, word count is a non-starter…

We could go with a “correctness” approach. Meaning, whichever submission is more correct than the other…in terms of grammar and spelling that is…wins.

Hmm… Yeah, let’s do that.

Well lookie here… Seems author J Hardy Carroll has already confessed to a “couple of typos.” How ’bout that? Kinda makes things easy for me, seeing that without the confession I just may have overlooked the typos, regarding them not as errors but instead as just being part of the author’s intended poetically licensed weird.

And I’m finding neither a confession of errors nor any non-confessed errors in author karen rawson’s submission.

Well, I guess that’s that then.

While we have a tie in a lack of literary weirdness and an abundance of literary awesomeness, we do have separation between the two in literary correctness.

As a result of this separation, however slight, it is my pleasure to present to you today’s selection for our controversial Weird Wednesday prompt…

by karen rawson

A ghostly Capote came calling
Said you saw what they called Summer Crossing
Jerry’s letters went viral
Your Watchman will spiral
The trick is to burn your own writing.

Thank you very much to both J Hardy and karen. And while I may have made a bit of a mockery of my selection process, I am not joking one bit when I say that they are both extremely high on literary awesomeness scale. JHC’s story had me right there in the room with our three angelic authors. The dialogue is era-appropriate and the tone pitch perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it…several times…typos and all (plus I appreciate the insight of what I might expect if I am to review JHC’s very compelling-looking novel (see sidebar). All the while, karen’s poem has everything that could possibly be packed into such wonderful poetic artistry with such an economy of words, all the while hitting the proverbial nail on the head with its symbolism and allusion. And, as the great Kafka himself requested in vain that all his papers be burned upon his death, I am sure he would be nodding his head in enthusiastic agreement of the poems moral of a message. Extremely well done to both.