Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks is one of my all-time favorite actors. When Big came out, I was in love with him. I followed his acting trajectory over the years and with each movie, he excelled. From Sleepless in Seattle to Forrest Gump to Cast Away to Saving Private Ryan, Hanks has outdone himself, including winning an Oscar for Philadelphia. He’s just one of those actors who has always had a clean image, never let fame get to his head, down to earth and yes, his marriage is still surviving the pressures of Hollywood.

Which is why I was all the more excited when my favorite actor was coming out with his book Uncommon Type. I just finished reading the book last week, and my reaction at the end of it all was: is that it? As much as I am fond of Hanks the Actor, I am not too sure if I am fond of Hanks the Author.

Uncommon Type is a collection of 17 short stories, and they are all connected with a common theme: a typewriter. Each story has the presence of a typewriter, whether it’s a central character of its own, or it’s relegated to the background where you have to figure out the importance of it. Hanks has gone on record to mention how much he admires typewriters and is an ardent collector.

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Some of the stories stand out more than the others, while others seem a little lackadaisical.

The first one, about two best friends who embark on a sexual affair sets the tone right with its wry humor and cheekiness (you can almost picture Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks). The ending brought a smile to my face and so I was prepared for the rest of the book. This tone is similar to another story where a son and his father go surfing, and thanks to an accident on the waters, the son stumbles upon his father’s little secret. The tone of these stories can be seen through Hanks brand of humor.

The other stories that stood out were the ones where four friends take a trip to the moon from their backyard, the story of a billionaire who time travels to 1939 and the recurring story of Hank Fiset, a newspaper reporter with an old-fashioned view of the world.

It becomes evident in the book that Hanks has relied a lot on his diverse movie roles to flesh out the characters. In one story, about a WW 2 veteran, reminded me a lot of Band of Brothers. While another, about space travel, reminded me a lot of Apollo 13. Hanks has also been a scriptwriter in Hollywood and that influence is seen in another story. He has put to good use his vast knowledge of acting and fleshing out characters in creating the stories. There is no doubt that Hanks is an accomplished storyteller, as accomplished as he is a great actor.

However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone, but those who are fond of Hanks will enjoy reading it. It will not win any major prizes or anything, and at the end of the day, the book is about stories that have been vividly created with memorable characters and moments, that will charm and delight you, and eventually bring a smile to your face. Now that’s the kind of magic only Hanks can conjure up.

We can be assured that just in case if Hanks movie career finishes, he can always fall back on his writing!

by MANSOUR AHSAN

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