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New ‘Gump & Co.’ Proves Stupid Is As Stupid Writes

Michiko Kakutani New York Times

“Gump & Co.” By Winston Groom (Pocket Books, $22, 242 pages)

Hello, my name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump. Maybe you’ve already heard of me. More and more people has, ever since all these fellers come along to tell my life’s story.

First there was that writer feller, Mr. Winston Groom, who way back along there in 1986 wrote this book with my name on its cover jus’ as plain as day: “Forrest Gump.” And then there was all them movie people who made themselves a movie ‘bout my adventures. They got that nice actor, Mr. Tom Hanks, to play me and that pretty lady, Miss Sally Field, to play my mama. I reckon that movie was some big success, cause Mr. Winston Groom has now gone and wrote another book called “Gump & Co.,” which is supposed to tell you even more ‘bout my life. As if you folks didn’t already know more ‘bout my past than my poor ole pea brain can recollect.

I may jus’ be an idiot, but I gotta say all these biographies have got me mighty vexed. Mr. Winston Groom says in his first book that I’m something he calls an “idiot savant,” which I guess is some fancy way of sayin’ I’m good at math and number stuff like that, but awful slow at jus’ about everythin’ else. Those movie people, they didn’t say nothing about the “savant” thing, though; they jus’ made me out to be this nice dimwit who goes around sayin’ things like “life is like a box of chocolates” and “stupid is as stupid does.” I don’t know what any of that means exactly, and when people come up to me on the street now and repeat them words like they’re some kind of wisdom or something, I have to say you could knock me over with a feather.

It’s funny how things work out. In the movie, them fellers made a whole lotta of other changes to my story too. As Mr. Groom tells it, I’m this huge feller: 6 foot 6 and 240 pounds, but then those movie people go ahead and have that talented but real normal-size Mr. Tom Hanks play me, instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Which maybe has somethin’ to do with the fact that Mr. Groom also says in that first book of his that Jenny didn’t even love me in the beginnin’ but was more interested in my body, and then went off and married this other feller by the name of Donald anyways. I have to say I personally like the movie version better, where me and my Jenny get to get married, and I get to play with our son Little Forrest at the end. But that’s all I have to say about that.

The other thing that sets me to wonderin’ is how them Hollywood fellers had me meetin’ all these famous people. Oh, Mr. Groom, he had me meetin’ President Nixon and Raquel Welch and goin’ to Vietnam, of course, but Mr. Tom Hanks, he got to meet Elvis and John Lennon and President Kennedy and Governor Wallace and actually affect how things went down in history. Now, even I knows that changing history has got to be harder than that.

But maybe this is where Mr. Groom got his idea for his new book, cause this new book, it’s just chockfull of stories ‘bout me hookin’ up with one famous person after another. Like I’ve said before, everybody makes mistakes, which is why they put a rubber mat around spittoons, but for the life of me I can’t see myself associatin’ with some of the nasty folks Mr. Groom says I do in “Gump & Co.” I mean I may be a idiot, but most of the time, I’m jus’ tryin’ to do the right thing.

Sometimes, readin’ this new book, I think Mr. Groom is mad at me for something or is in such a hurry to make hisself some more money that he’s gone plumb outta his mind. He writes like I would leave Little Forrest at home in Alabama, while I went gallivantin’ around the world with all these high muckety-mucks, that I would actually pal around with fellers who talk ‘bout “meanness, dirty tricks an stuff.” I don’t know what I did to make Mr. Groom say such things ‘bout me: so far all’s my story done for him is brung him his picture in People magazine.

According to “Gump & Co.,” a Mr. Oliver North, a genuine colonel, recruited me for something called Iran-contra, and took me off to Iran where we met this old feller with a beard who we done made a business deal with. Mr. Groom, he says Mr. North tried to blame me for the whole mess when things didn’t turn out so good later on.

And then, says Mr. Groom, this other feller named Mr. Ivan Bozosky hired me for his company and tried to make me take all the blame when things began goin’ south. Seems like I musta spent most of the ‘80s and ‘90s - most of “Gump & Co.,” anyways - gettin’ throwed in jail, gettin’ rescued and gettin’ throwed back in again. Just thinkin’ about it is enough to make my stomach do a flip-flop.

According to Mr. Groom, I was a mighty busy boy. I got sent by the Army to Alaska, where I got mixed up with troubles concernin’ this big boat named the Exxon-Valdez. I got sent to Germany, where I helped bring down the Berlin wall by tossin’ a football over to the other side and then gettin’ chased across the border by this group of fans. And I got sent to Iraq where I met a Mr. Saddamn Hussein.

Now my mama always said people should try and avoid gettin’ a swelled head, and I have to say here that those Hollywood folk and especially Mr. Groom in this here new book seem to have blowed up my importance. I didn’t mind so much them movie people showin’ me teachin’ Elvis how to dance, but this “Gump & Co.,” it’s actually got me doin’ stuff like endin’ the cold war and affectin’ the course of peace in the Middle East.

People tell me this is what they like to call satire, though I have to say the humor of it all escapes me.

I suppose the reason folks like readin’ this sort of thing is cause the world’s such a crazy place these days that folks like thinkin’ an idiot like me was behind all the stuff that happened, instead of Nobody at all.

They act like being stupid might be some kinda blessin.’

Anyways, I have gotta disagree with that. Like Tom Hanks said in the movie, I didn’t ever want to be called stupid. I always wished I coulda been as smart as my boy, Little Forrest.

So, if I ain’t oversteppin’ my bounds, I wanna say that this new book “Gump & Co.” is stupid. Well, stupid is as stupid writes. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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