“It turns out that Tom Hanks is also a wise and hilarious writer with an endlessly surprising mind. Damn it.” – Steve Martin
Steve Martin pretty much sums up my view. Tom Hanks has too much talent, so much so that it meant the cup of acting poured over into writing. “Uncommon Type” is a varied collection of short stories which often seem to be extensions of his more famous films. The stories are diverse, ranging from a teen surfing in California to billionaire time travelers to a divorcee moving to a new neighborhood. After reading “Uncommon Type,” I find myself hoping for more stories from Tom Hanks in the future.
The collection starts with “Three Exhausting Weeks,” which follows a believable tryst between friends and shows what men are happy to endure in budding relationships. The story ends in an amiable resolution while on an Antarctic adventure. In the next story, “Christmas Eve 1953,” Hanks is able to capture the nostalgia of Christmas. The plot takes a twist and dives into the same day 9 years earlier with the protagonist fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. So the collection goes with varied characters and experiences.
Right smack dab in the middle is an intense moon launch called “Alan Bean Plus Four.” Four friends build a Saturn V rocket in Oxnard, California and launch from the driveway. The pace of the story is exciting as they guide themselves through space using iPhone apps. While the friends are celebrating splashdown, I found myself concerned about the neighbors in Oxnard getting torched from the launch. While completely implausible, it’s still a much better moon story than Artemis by Andy Wier.
One thing that pops up in every single story is a typewriter. It’s no secret that Tom Hanks loves typewriters. “These are the Meditations of My Heart” makes me want to go out and buy one right now. In some stories, typewriters are a subtle aside and in others they are forced in without much need. I can forgive Hanks for this. I’m still convinced I need one.
The only negative thing is the re-appearing, old-timey, newspaper editor Hank Feist. It’s easy to imagine Tom Hanks sitting in front of a Vintage LC Smith Corona typewriter with a sly smile, pretending to be running his own small-town rag. While he clearly enjoyed writing it, I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it.
I have to say that as a body of work, I truly enjoyed Uncommon Type. The collection of short stories was overall delightful. I found it rather easy to pick up the book and digest a story or two. I think that this book would make a tremendous camping companion. Each story is just the right length for a quick study between setting up camp and the last rays of sun before turning in for the night.