October 2017 William Heinemann
A small town newspaper columnist with old fashioned views of the modern world. A World War 2 veteran grappling with his emotional and physical scars. A second – rate actor plunged into sudden stardom and a whirlwind press junket. Four friends travelling to the moon in a rocket ship built in the backyard. These are just some of the stories that Tom Hanks captures in his first work of fiction: a collection of shorts that explore – with great affection, humour and insight – the human condition in all its foibles. The stories are linked by one thing: in each of them, a typewriter plays a part, sometimes minor, sometimes central.
To many, typewriters represent a level of craftsmanship, beauty and individuality that is harder and harder to find in the modern world. In these stories, Hanks gracefully reaches that typewriter – worthy – level. By turns whimsical, witty and moving, Uncommon Type establishes him as a welcome and wonderful new voice in contemporary fiction.
A wonderful reminder of how much I enjoy short stories, Hanks’ writing is sharp, witty and varied. I loved the tenuous use of the typewriter as a connecting thread between the stories, so much so that I found myself awaiting the appearance of the machine! The stories ranged in length, but averaged at about 30 pages, which seemed reasonable. Obviously there were some I found more engaging than others, but in the most part I enjoyed all of these. As a storyteller Hanks is strong and I could almost hear him reading the story… and this reminded me of Salinger, perhaps due to the wholesome writing about American life.
I’ve seen varied reviews of this book and I guess the joy of short stories is there should be something for everyone. For me, favourites included Welcome to Mars and A Month on Greene Street. I’ve seen Alan Bean plus Four sited as the best and this appeared in The New Yorker in 2014, but for me this was one I liked least.
With typewriters linking all the stories and each story starting with a picture of a typewriter I found myself wanting one. Tom Hanks collects typewriters and at one time owned hundreds, I believe he is reducing his collection now but his passion for these machines subtly shines through.
Are you a fan of short stories? Will you be reading this collection?
About the Author
Tom Hanks has been an actor, screenwriter, director and, through Playtone, a producer. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. This is his first collection of fiction.