By Roxanne H.
What would inspire a successful actor, screenwriter, director, and producer to want to write a book? Uncommon Type, group of short stories written by Tom Hanks, engages the reader with humor and wit. The book contains a selection of seventeen charming stories grounded in nostalgia, possibly based on Hanks’s personal experiences and extensive research. With thought provoking stories, this book cannot be characterized as a “quick read.” You hear Mr. Hanks’s voice reading to you as you move through the pages. Some stories had me turning pages, while others left me wanting to put the book down. Fortunately, the short story format makes it easy picked up and put down at leisure.
The following is an excerpt from “Who’s Who,” vividly demonstrates Hanks’s ability to capture a character’s feelings. The story takes place in New York City in 1978 and follows the life of an actress trying to find herself. In the process, she becomes disillusioned with the city:
“Just a roll of thunder out blared the honking horns of traffic, she lost the battle against tears, the collective disappointments simply too much: New York City roommates were not friendly soul sisters; Central Park was a place of naked trees, unusable benches, and spent rubbers; windows had security gates that locked rapists out and victims in; no cute sailors were waiting to meet a girl and get a kiss. No. In New York City real estate parlors took your money and lied to you, drug addicts relieved themselves in plain sight, and the Public Library was closed on Mondays.”
Raw, yes but it sharply paints the disillusionment the character felt.
Not every story has you losing sleep to turn the page. Hanks is enamored with typewriters, which to a certain point is fine, but leads to boredom for the un-enamored reader. In “These are the Meditations of My Heart,” the main character looks for a new typewriter, and then buys one at a sale. This story is a bit tedious. Take a peek below:
“She pulled the typewriter from its cheap case, set it out on her tiny kitchen table, and rolled in a piece of printer paper from the feed of her Laser-Writer. She tried each of the keys-many stuck. One of the four rubber feet on the bottom of the machine was missing, so the machine rocked a bit. She pounded each of the keys from the top row across, shifting to caps as well trying with some degree of success to shake loose the stickiness. Though the ribbon was old, the letters were legible. She tried the spacing of the carriage return-single and double-, which worked, although the bell did not. The margin sliders scraped and then jammed in place.”
…You get the idea.
I understand Hanks fascination with typewriters. He wrote the stories using one. Each story has a typewriter in it which pulls the stories together in a unique way, similar to how Alfred Hitchcock made a brief appearance in all his movies.
I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to understand Tom Hanks as a writer and experience his ability to write a wide range of characters and experiences. His purpose for writing this book is clearly to entertain his audience.