Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gump & Co.

Gump & Co.
© 1995 Winston Groom
242 pages

"Mr. Gump, I want you to meet Tom Hanks," [the hostess] says.
"Pleased to meet you," I say, an introduce him to little Forrest.
"I've seen you," little Forrest says, "on television."
"You an actor?" I ast.
"Sure am," Tom Hanks says. "What about you?"
So I tole him a little bit about my checkered career, an after he listened for a while, Tom Hanks says, "Well, Mr. Gump, you sure are a curious feller. Sounds like somebody ought to make a movie of your life's story."
"Nah," I said, "ain't nobody be interested in somethin stupid like that."
"You never know," says Tom Hanks. "'Life is like a box of chocolates.'"

Winston Groom's novel Forrest Gump made the rounds in my high-school class during my senior year after one of the football players read it and began raving about it. Gump & Co. is a sequel to that novel, and I spotted it on display at my local library. As said, it is a sequel to the novel -- not the movie. It's been years since I read the novel, so I don't remember all of the story -- only that it was so popular among my high school class because the novel's story was "dirtier" than the movie, and being basically kids, we were attracted to that. Although the sequel begins with Jenny alive, Groom quickly connects it with the book by killing her off. Forrest' situation is different from the movie ending, however: at the start of Gump & Co., the shrimp company has gone bankrupt and Forrest is reduced to sweeping the floors in a strip joint.

The book is written from the first-person point of view and in a very...colloquial fashion. At first I was bothered by the fact that all of the characters seemed to speak in the same voice, but then I realized that Groom was portraying Gump doing what most people do: when repeating the words of others, we generally repeat their meaning in our own words. Although the book's story does have a beginning, something resembling a climax, and an ending, the plot isn't all that developed. After one of his former fellow Crimson Tide football players spots him in the strip joint, Forrest is introduced to the world of professional football (playing for the New Orleans "Ain'ts") and from there has one adventure after another, most ending hilariously and poorly for Forrest. Just as in the original book, his antics will thrust him into history's march: he will invent New Coke, destroy Jimmy Bakker's religious theme park, sink the Exxon-Valdez, help Oliver North escape the Iran-Contras situation, accidentally topple Communism, and invade Kuwait, finally coming back to where he started from, but united with his son and committed to thinking more.

I would recommend this book to two types of readers: those who enjoyed Forrest Gump and those who enjoy a humorous story that obliquely makes fun of American society in the 1980s and -90s.

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