I thought I knew The Graduate, the outstanding sixties classic featuring an absurdly young Dustin Hoffman, the seductive Anne Bancroft and the and the beautiful Katherine Ross.
It turns out I was wrong because there is another ‘Graduate’, the book by Charles Webb on which the film was based.
All the familiar scenes that appear in the film are present in the book. From Ben’s seduction by Mrs Robinson in the Taft hotel to his daring rescue of her daughter from her wedding in a Santa Barbara church. Even the scenes of Ben resting at the bottom of his parent’s pool are here.
The only thing missing is the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack.
For this reason, it’s kind of surprising that the book has all but been forgotten. It was only recently reissued as a Penguin Modern Classic, which is how it came to my attention.
Written in 1962 in a simple deadpan style it manages to be ahead of its time, tapping into the coming zeitgeist of the late sixties, that feeling of youthful middle class alienation from the comfortable suburban life of their parents.
Within a few years, this alienation would have something to really kick against in the form of the Vietnam War Draft but in the early Sixties Cali idyll of Benjamin Braddock all that exists is a vague sense of unease as he floats, wasted across his parents pool.
Even if you’ve never seen the film, the book stands on its own merits and as long as there are confused twenty-somethings in the world, it will always have a readership.