Book Review: Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type

Tom Hanks also writes and very well at that.

I was aware of his love for typewriters, after I had come across an app he had sponsored (or something), which aimed to make writing on an iPhone resemble typing on a typewriter. To the extent that is possible, which is not great.

When I saw Mr. Hanks’ new collection of stories Uncommon Type at the bookstore I had to buy it.  Not because he is my all-time favorite actor or because of any fondness for short stories – I have precious little and it is reserved for O.Henry and Doris Lessing. But everything in that book talked to the booknerd in me: the bulkiness, the heaviness of it, the matte cover, the typewriter artwork, the font, the smell, those ingenious postcards you find inside when you open it. This title! How clever a title it is!

uncommontype

That time of year is upon us and I could not have chosen better for my pre-Christmas read. Although only one of the stories has anything to do with Christmas, somehow the whole collection made me feel very in tune with the spirit of the holidays and what matters in life.

Uncommon Type contains some (18) stories that are both very different and very much alike. The first one was alright although it did not really pull me in, but I kept going and I am thankful I did.

Let me tell you, Mr. Tom Hanks, you have a great writing voice – rich, versatile, and subtle.

The stories take the reader through a range of places, times and emotions with effortless panache. There is an exhilarating freedom in the writing choices, originality and intrigue in seemingly mundane situations.  So refreshing in a sea of the same narrative!

The reader is swept through the time continuum – from reminiscing about the WWII in the 1950s to time-traveling to the 1930s from the near future.

Yet each of the stories carries something nostalgic, something so human and real that it grounds you. One of the reasons I don’t like short stories is because they don’t bring comfort to me. By the time I get immersed in their world and feel cozy snugged up there, they are over and I am alone and abandoned and thrust into a new world I don’t yet know.

With this uncommon type of stories it was not the case – as different as they all were, from the first sentence of each one I got sucked in a world that is profoundly human and asking the big questions. Tt is quite comforting to shelter your soul in a narrative like that, when a lot of what is being written (or rather popularly read) today is focused on shallow intrigue or supernatural forces.

In a way this book will always be two things for me – my source of solace through a bout of sickness (measles at 30, not fun!) and a memento of the said time.

Reading Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type is like enjoying a glass of delicious rich wine every evening – it does not mean wild party, nor a hangover when it’s over. But you relish every sip.

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