Here are two things to get out of the way; one, I haven't seen the film, and two, I enjoyed this novel much more than 'Revolutionary Road' and is, in my opinion, in every way its equal.
Of the first, it has to be said that however good a film 'The Graduate' made (yes, I know all the words to the song, the poster has been etched into my mind, I even have an Alfa Romeo myself) it has been unkind to the book by so completely eclipsing it. For this is an outstanding American novel, breathtaking in its sheer verve and audacity. And with regards the comparison with 'Revolutionary Road' - published just two years previously - given the choice between Richard Yates's full-frontal approach to disintegrating relationships I'd choose Webb's almost peripheral-vision tactics any day of the week. For unlike Yates Webb gets the sensationalism out of the way early. The deftly-portrayed affair between Benjamin Braddock and Mrs Robinson is fascinating, of course, but for me it's only the precursor to the main event: the consequent hurt and tragedy, the veritable car-crash of wrecked relationships, the coolly observed internal collapse of previously ordered and rational lives.
Throughout all this Webb has the bravery to write infuriating dialogue, often banal in its perfunctoriness. But this is his brilliance, the sign of a writer that knows exactly what he's doing and precisely the effect it's going to have on the reader. The cumulative effect is riveting, as is the heart-pounding plot that ends, perfectly, with all the air sucked out of it. And if, for me, the best opening line in modern fiction is Paul Theroux's 'Saint Jack', then 'The Graduate' surely has the best last line.
On the strength of 'The Graduate', Charles Webb is a criminally underrated writer. This is a glorious, clever novel. Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman and Simon & Garfunkel have a lot to answer for.