cover image Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

Winston Groom. Doubleday Books, $14.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-385-23134-3

There is a joyously madcap feeling to the first half of this unusual novel, but then the absurdity gathers its own speed and begins to run dangerously amok. Groom's picaresque tale is told by an idiot, the Gump of the title, and follows his outrageous life from early stardom for Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide, through a tour in Vietnam and across the broad canvas of America during the '70s and '80s. Like most literary idiots, Forrest Gump is a lot smarter than the people he encounters. He is also no ordinary idiot. Instead, he is a mathematical idiot savant, capable of outperforming NASA's on-board computers, which is why Gump ends up on a space mission with an ape and the first woman astronauta mission that ends in the forests of New Guinea where Gump meets a Yale-tutored cannibal. All this takes place after Gump has met Lyndon Johnson and saved Chairman Mao from drowning, which is to say that this is a very broad satire. While there is much on-target humor here, Groom, author of Better Times Than These, has written better books than this. (March 7)