In this letter to the book cover, I have to work backward. ‘Forrest Gump’ the book happened to me after the movie.
As a child from the 90s growing up in India, I didn’t have much access to English movies. And, when I did, I was completely bowled over by Tom Hanks. At one point I owned a DVD with Cast Away, The Green Mile, Road to Perdition and The Terminal which I kept playing on a loop. What I missed out on was ‘Forrest Gump’. The mistake I made with Forrest Gump was this – I could not think of Forrest Gump as a stand-alone book or a story or a character…Forrest Gump was an extended manifestation of Tom Hanks.
Once you look at the book covers of ‘Forrest Gump’, irrespective of the UK, US or the Canadian and even the Indian editions, Tom Hanks on the bench is the universal picture on the cover of this book.
But, after reading the book, I would say it is sad that a book like Forrest Gump needed an actor or a movie to boost its sales. This book is so rich and isn’t as eccentric as the movie tends to get, especially in the Vietnam portion.
‘Forrest Gump’ is written by Winston Groom and was published in 1986. Winston Groom served the American army from 1965-67 in Vietnam. This is the reason why the portrayal young Forrest in the forests of war-torn Vietnam is so authentic. He began to write books after coming back to America but nothing worked until ‘Forrest Gump’ turned into a movie and the book’s sales skyrocketed to become a best seller.
So how did the book covers of ‘Forrest Gump’ look before the Tom Hanks picture coup? The most popular cover was this crayon drawn picture of Forrest Gump on the bench from behind. Another cover around the same time was simple text with a much smaller picture of Forrest on the bench.
A few years later, an eccentric cover came out with the features on Forrest’s face twisted sideways. This one gets my vote for worst-ever book cover.
In a nutshell, Forrest Gump is the story of a boy born with a cognitive disability who lives an extraordinary life witnessing some of the biggest events of American history. The story is narrated in the first person by Forrest in a unique voice and flows fluidly. In the book, even in the places where one would question the believability factor, it becomes magical realism in the literary sense.
Forrest Gump is a refreshing book; it is one of its kind. Yet, it needed Tom Hanks on the cover to grab the readers. Post the movie release in 1994, ‘Gump-ism’ became a fad. One of the most popular lines from the movie, the iconic bus stop bench scene is, ‘My Momma always said life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’. What do you think; does this line come from the book?
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