- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006


Here’s to you — Mrs. Robinson is back.Elusive American writer Charles Webb said Wednesday he has signed a publishing deal for a sequel to his 1963 novel “The Graduate,” which introduced the memorable love triangle of twentysomething Benjamin Braddock; his sweetheart, Elaine; and her seductive mother, Mrs. Robinson.

The 1967 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols, made a star of Dustin Hoffman and created a screen icon in Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson.

Now Mr. Webb is ready to reveal the characters’ fate.

“It was quite a while till I could figure out what they did next,” he says.

“Home School” picks up the lives of Benjamin and Elaine about 10 years later, living in upstate New York with their two children and trying to keep Mrs. Robinson at bay.

Random House says it plans to publish the book in Britain in June 2007. It has world rights to the novel but has not announced an American publication date. Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for the U.S. division of Random House, says the publisher is waiting to see material from the new book before making any decisions.

Mr. Webb says he received $56,000 for the book, a modest sum clearly needed. He has led an itinerant life and given away much of his fortune since gaining fame with his first novel. Earlier this year, he faced eviction from his apartment in Hove in southern England because of unpaid rent.

Mr. Webb, 66, says the threat of homelessness for himself and his partner of 40 years — a woman who goes by the name of Fred — prompted him to approach publishers with the novel after he had been working on it for several years.

“I have a person in California who advises me, and she said, ‘Don’t wait until it’s finished.

You’ll be finishing it out on the street,’” Mr. Webb says. “So I sold it before I intended to.”

The movie version of “The Graduate” made millions, but Mr. Webb did not get a share of the film rights and did not receive any of the money.

“Mercifully, I wasn’t written into that deal,” Mr. Webb says of the film. “Nobody understands why I felt so relieved, but I count my longevity to not being swept into that. My wife and I have done a lot of things we wouldn’t have done if we were rich people.

“I wouldn’t have gotten to the point of writing this. I would have been counting my money instead of educating my children.”

Asked about a possible film deal for the sequel, Mr. Webb says he plans to seek legal advice on whether he holds the copyright to the film characters or whether those rights were signed away with the rights to “The Graduate” film, now held by the French media company Canal Plus.

In 1988, Mr. Webb said he was nearly destitute, living out of a van in Williamstown, Mass. He was given shelter by a woman in Connecticut who had read of his plight, but he left soon afterward.

“It’s not fair to say she threw us out,” Mr. Webb said at the time. “There was just a difference of opinion on the nudism.”

The couple moved to Britain in 2000. Since then, Mr. Webb has spent much of his time caring for Fred, who suffered a nervous breakdown in 2001.

Mr. Webb says she is recovering, and he has continued to write. In 2001, he published the novel “New Cardiff,” which was made into the movie “Hope Springs,” starring Colin Firth and Heather Graham.

He says he has a couple of unproduced plays and a collection of short stories he hopes also will be released.

“Home School” is based on Mr. Webb’s own experience of pulling his children out of the California school system in the 1970s.

“Not a lot of people picked up on it, but the title of ‘The Graduate’ was supposed to convey it was about education,” he says. “Benjamin is disenchanted with education, and once his kids enter the system, he finds it intolerable.”

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