Publisher: Pocket Books
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/5/1994
Summary: Not the movie. Not drama either.
Reprinted from Crushies Book Review, November 1994 Volume I, Issue No. 5….
Right. It was a book before it was a movie and if the movie reviews are correct, it makes a better movie. Written in first person, southern dialect, Gump is a collection of satirical social commentaries in the form of a story. It is meant to be a state of the union assessment by a person with an IQ of 70 and a simple determination to “do the right thing”
In case the assessment is missed, it is bluntly stated on page 168 when Forrest Gump and his girlfriend, Jenny Curran, discuss now mutual friend, Dan. Dan goes to the bathroom to urinate. Dan is a former army lieutenant in the Vietnam War who has had both legs amputated and moves around on a push-cart. Jenny, concerned about how Dan will negotiate his way to the toilet, is told by Gump that Dan will manage on his own. Jenny replies, as quoted by Gump, “This is where the Vietnam War has got us.” And Gump tells us, “There ain’t much disputing that either. It is a sad and sorry spectacle when a no-legged man has got to pee in his hat and then dump it over into the toilet.”
Well, I disagree. It is not a sorry spectacle. It is the sight of a man coping with life. Nothing sorry about it. If anything, it is a testimonial to what the human spirit is capable of overcoming and enduring. That Forrest Gump places himself on the outside and makes the trite observation in the first place definitely takes him out of the realm of the mere idiot. He’s more like a radio talk show host with fifty thousand megawatts of broadcasting power, time to kill and a lose spiritual center. Unfortunately, throughout the book, the Gump character never gels. And this is the problem with Forrest Gump, the book. It is missing the spirit, leaving only the victim.
The first funny moment in Gump is funny because it is original. After that moment, it starts slinging re-hash. There is the evolution of time, the change of people, places and things. There are the adventures of Gump; Gump the football player, Gump the college student, Gump the solider, Gump the ping-pong player, Gump the lover, Gump the astronaut, Gump the jungle survivor, Gump the chess player, Gump the would-be movie star, and finally, Gump the shrimp farmer. And there is the love-found, love-lost story involving Jenny Curran. But Gump never changes. Gump as Gump is Gump.
In reading Forrest Gump, you catch glimpses of an original American story. It was probably these glimpses that prompted someone (Steve Tisch and Wendy Finerman) to turn this book into a movie. Luckily, the movie does NOT follow the formula of the book.