The Graduate by Charles Webb – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | LITERARY
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?