I'd unfairly dismissed Charles Webb's The Graduate, first published in 1963, as one of those novels outdone by the movie it inspired. But, as Hanif Kureishi remarks in his introduction to this new edition, the book is more than a match for the film, carried along on light and limber prose.
The plot will be familiar: Benjamin Braddock returns home from college, disillusioned and listless. He resents being an "ivy-covered status symbol" for his middle-class parents, and decides to stir things up: he has an affair with the wife of his father's business partner, Mrs Robinson, and later falls in love with her daughter.
And it is Benjamin, rather than Mrs Robinson, who makes the novel memorable: an unpredictable mixture of awkwardness and Ivy League arrogance, by turns world-weary and whimsical, he can be placed alongside Holden Caulfield and Jack Kerouac's Sal Paradise in that distinguished roster of dissatisfied American youth.
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