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Quick take

Just as with his acting career, Hanks manages to do comedy and tragedy equally well in his writing.

Why I love it

You may have heard some buzz about a debut fiction writer by the name of Tom Hanks. Yes, him. The most likable movie star on the planet just happens to have published an entirely charming story collection that is artfully constructed and emotionally affecting. Beginner's luck? Maybe not. Just as with his acting career, Hanks manages to do comedy and tragedy equally well in his writing, even if there's some sillier stuff thrown in too (see if you can identify the story that I like to refer to as the Joe Versus the Volcano of the book).

Uncommon Type is centered around a reverence for the old-fashioned: whether in historical stories, contemporary ones, or even in a space travel sci-fi tale. Each story contains a reference to a typewriter, which truthfully I may have missed had it not been for the collection's title and jacket design and the fact that I’ve read that Tom is apparently obsessed with them. The typewriters are clues that each story is grounded in nostalgia, whether for old-timey expressions (Hanks's characters are prone to use phrases like, "Howdy do?" and "Ah, heck"), or old-timey storytelling (newspaper column interludes are interspersed through the book, written with an small-time "ace" reporter's cadence). If Hanks's prose contains words like "yowza" and the aside, "not that anyone gives a whoop," then perhaps the best example of his tone is a story written as a screenplay in which the soundtrack transitions from LL Cool J's "Mama Says Knock You Out" directly into "Mambo Italiano" by Dean Martin.

Best of all, Hanks's characters feel authentic, from the newly divorced mom who moves to a new neighborhood eager to begin a new chapter in her life, to a son who learns a relationship-damaging secret about his father during a morning surfing trip. I was especially fond of a story about the absurdities of an international press junket for a rising movie star that seems so Hollywood insider-y, I'll choose to believe it was written from personal experience. If you, like me, admire Hanks's mastery on the big screen, it's not a leap at all to imagine you'll love him just as much on the page.

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Synopsis

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country's civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game ... and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN's newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

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Preview

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    November 2017
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