July 5, 2020

"Now I don’t know what brought this up but I have no intention of hopping around the world ogling natives and peasants or whatever you had in mind."

Said Benjamin Braddock, the main character in the novel "The Graduate," which I read after reading the obituary of the author Charles Webb. I picked out that quote because of my longstanding critique of travel. The character says that after his love interest, Elaine, tells him, "Before you tie yourself down to being married you should do other things... But wouldn’t it be exciting?... To see all the different lands and the different peoples and so forth?"

I wanted to read "The Graduate" to prepare to read another book by Webb, "Home School," in which he tells what he and his wife (≈ Ben and Elaine) did with their life.

Here's the note, "About the Author," that's in "The Graduate":
Charles Webb seems to have taken the message of his book very seriously and has spent his adult life avoiding the sort of traps that materialism lays for people. Since the success of The Graduate, has shunned the limelight. Both he and his wife have sought to avoid the celebrity and the expectations that success could have brought them. Webb gave away most of the money he made from the novel and reportedly sold the film rights to the book for a mere $20,000.
The novel "The Graduate" is very close to the movie, which I've seen twice, though not recently. It's a very quick read, full of dialogue, but it does help you understand the characters a bit more than in the movie. The main difference is that the huge laugh line from the movie, "Plastics," is not in the book, and in the book Benjamin converts his sports car to cash as soon as he gets to Berkeley, so he's not chasing Elaine in that cool car.

Anyway. Travel. I thought the translation of the bourgeois view of travel into "hopping around the world ogling natives and peasants" was very nice. The character never knows what he wants to do (other than marry Elaine), but other people keep wanting him to do things, and you get the message that he's more advanced just having eliminated all their bad ideas from his life. Traveling is just one of them.


The Crack Emcee said...

"Other people keep wanting him to do things, and you get the message that he's more advanced just having eliminated all their bad ideas from his life. Traveling is just one of them."

"Brunch" is probably another, I hope.

Mike Smith said...

For what it is worth, $20,000 in the 1960's is about $300,000 in today's dollars. $20,000 may not be "princely" but I wouldn't use the word, "mere" to describe it.

Josephbleau said...

Am I mixed up, or was “The Graduate” just about a guy to screwed a girl’s mom and then married the girl anyway? Was there something else I missed in it?

Jim said...

BTW, Benjamin's car was an Alpha Romeo, and yes, it was (and still is) a pretty cool car.

Eleanor said...

I bought two tickets to see "The Graduate" on stage and gave them to my husband for his birthday. He commented to one of his friends that he wasn't sure why I had bought him the tickets since I'm the one who loves the theater. His friend asked him if he had seen the movie. "Yes, a long time ago." Did he remember Mrs. Robinson? "Yes, I do." What did he think of Kathleen Turner? "She's one the sexiest actresses ever." Bro, she's taking you to see Kathleen Turner naked for your birthday, and I do believe you have really good seats. Shut up. She was outstanding in the role, even the parts where she was dressed.

effinayright said...

Looking back, I realize that the most important thing I ever did in my young life was to spend a year-and-a-half pack-backing around Asia.

Iran, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Laos.... living in cheap hostels, eating the local food, dealing with language issues, having to figure out how to get from point A to point B on trains and buses...

Plus 4 1/2 years in Japan, where I became semi-fluent in the language. Not perfect, but goddamn good.

Day after day,

When I returned to the US I found myself much more confident about taking on new challenges.

I became the go-to guy in a fast-growing computer company. Japan was going to be Number One then, so I was a hot property.


Need a guy to hop on a plane to set up a support office in Cyprus, because Beirut was falling apart in a civil war?

Send me.

Need someone to go to Taiwan to figure out why our 300 megabyte memory units (each the size of a small refrigerator) were arriving with their sides caved in, and to deal with the reseller owners-- two of the country's richest people?

Send me.

Need someone to go to Singapore to get the owner of our reseller there to fire a disastrous manager (who was pissing off our customers, and once showed up with a policeman to force a customer to surrender a 128K memory board)?

Send me.

So the idea that travel is just a matter of ogling and vulgar curiosity fails flat. It reflects an utter failure of the imagination.

For me, it was the smartest thing I ever did.

tcrosse said...

Ann Bancroft was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman.

effinayright said...

Mike Smith said...
For what it is worth, $20,000 in the 1960's is about $300,000 in today's dollars. $20,000 may not be "princely" but I wouldn't use the word, "mere" to describe it.

Actually, it would be worth about $180K.


But I'm still doubtful: I wound up with $9K in student loan debt when I graduated from college in the late 60's, and paid it off in less than two years, working for a then-princely sum of about $20K annually.

I never saw myself being saddled with huge debt, because I wasn't.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Charles Webb seems to have taken the message of his book very seriously and has spent his adult life avoiding the sort of traps that materialism lays for people...

...and thus ended up far more trapped by his anti-materialism.

wild chicken said...

I couldn't get into that movie and do git tired of all the references to it.

But part if it was Hoffman's catatonic, put-upon affect. Like Harry Potter's. Stuff happens around them but they don't seem a part of it all. Because everyone else is stupid and useless, or something.

That seems to be how people like their heroes.

The book sound better tho. I might read that.

DavidUW said...

A story peculiar to Boomers and having no lasting relevance.

see: A Catcher in the Rye

Read some enduring literature.

Mark said...

Was there something else I missed in it?

A lot. The most important part.

Namely, existential drift and disillusionment. Even at the end (of the movie), the characters look ahead with this uneasy smile on their faces and you can hear them thinking to themselves, "OK, now what?"

walter said...

Such an odd take on travel for someone generally curious.
Perhaps you waited too long to enjoy it without viewing it as predatory or pointless.

jaydub said...

Okay, Karen.

effinayright said...

I understand that Miss Ann doesn't like to travel. It's infra dig, "boojey" and all that.

Yet for a while, she showed as Google Streets pics of places in Yemen and elsewhere.

I don't get it: why settle for sterile pictures, when you could actually experience the places they portray?

... the people and the lives they lead, the buildings, the food, the overall atmosphere...

Kipling was right when he described India as the "Land of Stinks and Palaces".

No picture of the Taj Mahal can begin to convey that thought.

(and I've been to Agra three times, so I know)

wild chicken said...

existential drift and disillusionment

Yeah, real life-affirming stuff there.

I prefer a guy with some spirit.

robother said...

So, in the followup novel, does Mrs. Robinson give birth to Dustin Hoffman's son, who is also his brother-in-law? How may awkward Thanksgivings did the family endure? Kook-Kook-a-choo.

Sally327 said...

I can understand not wanting one's life to be too focused on accumulating material goods but it sounds to me as if he was taken advantage of when he sold the rights to his novel or was not sufficiently aware of its value which, either way, makes him seem a bit of a fool.

Retail Lawyer said...

The travel thing was cool in the 80s, but nowadays enough of the world is rich enough to ruin the experience with crowds and infrastructure for the travelers. And the virus made it around the world on planes. And the next one will, too. That's a pretty big externality to endure to enable the travel business model.

Stepper said...

Travel's fine. It's travelbrag that's tiresome.

Art in LA said...

I hope all of you big time world travelers buy carbon credits to offset the jet ✈️ emissions. IIRC, that one of AA’s peeves with global travel.

jaydub said...

wholelottasplainin:' "I understand that Miss Ann doesn't like to travel."

There is probably more to it than that. I don't think she has ever really traveled. Toured, maybe; been a few places, maybe. But traveled to a foreign place with a purpose in mind, been forced to interact with people on their turf, understood or appreciated the culture or customs enough to be successful? I doubt it. There appear to be trust and trepidation issues involved, perhaps the result of a prior bad experience. I can understand all that, but this constant hectoring and denigration of the people who took a different road than her own is not a particularly enlightened look. Nor is it going to change the minds of people like you and I who have actually done it, excelled at it and relished the opportunity.

Narayanan said...

Mike Smith said...
For what it is worth, $20,000 in the 1960's is about $300,000 in today's dollars. $20,000 may not be "princely" but I wouldn't use the word, "mere" to describe it.
how much is $ 50,000 in 1943 worth today?
Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to Ayn Rand 's The Fountainhead in late 1943.

Narr said...

De gustibus . . .

The Graduate wasn't all that great IMO.

Key and Peele are on. See ya

Dan in Philly said...

Travel is overrated as a way to improve your soul.

narciso said...

The film generally, katherine ross from that film even through stepford wives.

Sebastian said...

Walter: "Such an odd take on travel for someone generally curious"

So, what does it say about one's curiosity when it is so peculiarly constricted?

jay dub: "this constant hectoring and denigration"

It is as if Althousian rationalizations require putting down the Other.

boatbuilder said...

We have a town-sponsored ski club that (used to) make trips 4 or 5 times a winter to the Vermont ski areas. 12-18 year-olds with several 50 and 60-somethings running the trips. 2 1/2 hours each way. On the return bus ride we'd play a movie. Usually some blockbuster a few years old or some family-safe favorite. We oldsters would take turns coming up with a decent movie to play.

A couple of years ago one of the elderly children of the sixties came up with "The Graduate" as the film of the day. Yeesh. The kids kept saying things like "What the fuck?" and "this sucks" with some long silences. I found myself agreeing with the kids.

effinayright said...

Dan in Philly said...
Travel is overrated as a way to improve your soul.

If you've never traveled, how would you know?

If you traveled and did not improve YOUR soul, why do you think you've proved your proposition for the rest of us by simply stating your unsupported opinion?

DavidUW said...

Exactly. The Graduate, like so much Boomer trash, has not aged well and will be forgotten, the sooner, the better, but I'm afraid we'll be stuck with it for another roughly 15 years and more than 1/2 of Boomers die.

But I'll give the Boomers credit for some decent music. Well, generally Boomers older brothers, except Dylan. Who's utter garbage.

Josephbleau said...

"Travel's fine. It's travelbrag that's tiresome..." Indeed.

After many years of expat assignments I do like to hear other folks comments about where I have been. Thailand, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, 'Straia. I like to see if they did the same things I did. Sawa di Kop! Kun Sabai de Ru!

LYNNDH said...

Hum, don't like to travel Ann, then stay away from my state, CO.

Saint Croix said...

I tried to read the book decades ago. Horrible. Really not funny at all.

Charles Webb seems to have taken the message of his book very seriously

Yeah, he's a humorless prig. That was my reaction. His book is painfully bad.

I have a theory that Hollywood should adapt bad books. Don't try making The Sun Also Rises or Moby Dick. You're just going to embarrass yourself. Adapt popular trash. For instance, The Godfather movie is better than the book. That's a readable book, don't get me wrong, but it's still kinda trashy. Jaws was a good book, but nobody would call it literature.

Buck Henry, Mike Nichols, and Dustin Hoffman are all amazing artists. That's why The Graduate is one of the greatest films ever made. I'm amazed the book was even published.

Deevs said...

I figure there are a lot of people all over the world who appreciate foreigners coming to oogle the natives or whatever because those people bring money and give it to said natives.

Narr said...

The freedom and wealth to travel--like the freedom and leisure to study and appreciate the past and all its cultural and spiritual (IYLTKOT) offerings--has been a hallmark of the elites since ancient times.

The 20th Century saw the extension of these opportunities to masses of people as never before, just as all the other things--education, formal legal equality, etc etc--formerly reserved for the 1% were extended.

I've enjoyed my brief but busy trips to the old sod, and while there are still many places I'd like to visit that I never have, I'd also gladly return to any place I've been again, and find plenty to do and enjoy.

I'm so boojie I like Switzerland

PM said...

btw, that forever-iconic shot of Ben through the bare leg of Mrs Robinson - that was done exactly the same way 12 years earlier with Kim Novak and Guy Madison in "5 Against the House". Just sayin'.

Saint Croix said...

Ann Bancroft was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman.

She's a fancy Anne, not a plain Ann. When an Ann runs into an Anne in the South, they always ask so they will spell the names right, "Are you a fancy Anne or a plain Ann?" My mom told me this, because she's an Ann.

One time she ran into a fancy Anne who had no idea she was a fancy Anne. So she self-identified as a plain Ann. "Oh, I'm plain Ann." She didn't want to be fancy. But she was a fancy Anne.

It's kind of like the Sneetches, I guess, except with an e.

Saint Croix said...

Do you know who seduced Mrs. Robinson in real life?

Mel Brooks!