Monday, April 16, 2012

The Graduate

I found this musty copy of Charles Webb's The Graduate in the basement of my grandparents house, in a pile of old National Geographics and issues of Cosmo from 1974. Jackpot! With a hand-drawn silhouette of a woman's leg across the cover and commendations by the Chigago Tribune and the New York Times promising a "Brilliant...Sardonic, Ludicrously Funny" novel, I was so excited for a campy, sexy, comedy-of-errors to read on the plane back to Arizona.

I'm not exactly sure what passed for sexy or funny in 1963, but if this was it - we've come a long way, baby.

The Graduate is the story of a college-educated, son of a lawyer who returns home after four years of schooling to loll around his parents house, depressed, bored, and suffering an existential crisis. He's ornery, lazy, and entitled, but despite an ill conceived affair with the morality-challenged wife of his father's business partner, his cannot quite fight the strong inner drive to seek out the white bread path of least resistance that has been set before him from birth.

The lead-up to the start of the affair is titillating enough, but after a few dates, even that becomes routine and stale for our story's "hero." He then begins to date the woman's daughter - Elaine - courting her with completely brutish behavior, then drying her tears and winning her heart with a hamburger and this phrase: "I like you. I like you so much...You're the first thing for so long that I've actually liked. The first person I could actually stand to be with." (pages 84 - 85, 89)

What a charmer.

Elaine buys the whole bit without so much as a blink of an eye, her mother oh-so-casually accepts the end of her own affair with The Graduate, and our protagonist Ben? Well, upon almost blowing it again with Elaine, he becomes further unhinged and stalks her at college - during which he never forgets to read the daily newspaper or do his laundry. Crazy AND inane.

The humor I suppose, comes from the utter lack of character development and the ridiculousness of the whole situation. I never saw the film staring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft - I hope that scripting shed a little light on the story, and helped the laughs along.

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