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« Tesco nation? | Main | Play a song for them? »

05/02/2006

Stuck in a legal limbo - The Graduate II

If you've had time to dip into times2 today you'll have seen some intriguing extracts from Home School, Charles Webb's long-awaited sequel to The Graduate. Jack Malvern, Arts Reporter of The Times, explains why that's all you'll be getting, for now..

Just how did The Times persuade Charles Webb to publish extracts of his long-awaited sequel to The Graduate? I got my first hint that such a book existed three weeks ago while standing in a hard hat and fluorescent jacket in the middle of the Millennium Dome (the new owners of the Greenwich tent were attempting to convince me that it would be the greatest arts centre London has ever seen).

The phone rang. It was Charles, and he was upset.

Charles had received a letter from his landlord telling him that he was about to be evicted. He was £2,000 behind with his rent (and saddled with debts of £30,000). Could I help? I would try, I said. We had been e-mailing each other for several months after I invited him to protest about Rumor Has It, a film that purported to be the true story of The Graduate but was in fact a preposterous Jennifer Aniston vehicle. Charles declined, but we remained in contact.

I wrote an article about Charles’s predicament, mentioning that he was seeking a well-wisher to provide shelter for him and Fred, his female partner. The article was picked up as far afield as a radio station in Columbia and the North Korea Times . “Any housing offers from Our Dear Leader will be very carefully scrutinised,” Charles joked. But no offers of accommodation came in, and he was still broke.

The main obstacle is that Charles is more interested in artistic integrity than cash. He received £60,000 recently for the film rights to New Cardiff, a novel which was turned into Hope Springs starring Colin Firth and Minnie Driver. He immediately gave away £10,000 of that as an art prize to fund “barking mad” artists. The winner, Daniel Shelton, posted himself to Tate Britain in a box.

His best prospect for raising money was Home School, the sequel to The Graduate, but there was a problem. Charles had sold the film rights to any sequels when he sold The Graduate back in the 1960s. Canal+, the French media company that owns The Graduate, would be able to make a film of Home School without his permission. That, for Charles, was unthinkable. He would not publish Home School during his lifetime.

But there is a ray of hope. Under French law, artists are not able to cede certain rights, including the rights to sequels. If only Charles had the money to pay French lawyers to make the case to Canal+ and retrieve his film rights. In an ideal world, a publisher would help him negotiate the return of the film rights as part of a book deal. The publisher gets a much-awaited sequel. Charles gets his film rights back. Readers learn what happened to Benjamin Braddock and Mrs Robinson.

What if we were to print extracts, I asked him. That might help to pay some of your bills and attract a publisher into the bargain. No publishers have called yet, but Charles remains optimistic. I've got the manuscript on my desk in front of me and I can tell you it's a ripping read (and would make another fine film). So, if Times readers are tickled by our extracts and want to read more, perhaps a few comments here would persuade a publisher that it is worthwhile. Or maybe there's a French copyright lawyer out there with fond memories of the first film.

Over to you, dear reader.

Comments

I read the excerpt from "Home School" and then read the story of Charles Webb's troubles. This is a good guy.

Even in excerpt form "Home School" shows signs of being as filmable, and as memorable, as "The Graduate."

A smart publisher would grab it.


What a disgraceful and unhappy situation. The suggestion (by Richard) that some of today's flourishing publishing houses might come to the rescue is an inspired one.

Charles Webb's situation is very sad and frustrating not only for him and his wife but all fans of The Graduate. The power that Canal+ have over the sequel is outrageous. This is an honest and generous man barely able to keep a roof over his head - where are the people who made millions from the film now they're needed? The extract from the sequel is fascinating and I would definitely buy it, and go and see a film version - but not an inferior one. The Graduate is a classic and the author of a story which had such a huge impact in the 1960s shouldn't be scratching around for rent money in his sixties. Publishers are not charities, but Webb isn't asking for handouts, just a decent deal. Come on Bloomsbury and Random House - you've got plenty of cash from Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code respectively. This would be a drop in the ocean for you, and publishing the sequel would be a cultural feather in your cap to boot.

Very strange but I'd watch the film for sure!

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