Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks 

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1732 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
Published October 17th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Uncommon Type: Some Stories
by Tom Hanks
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!

 "In her living room she opened the windows to get a bit of breeze. The sun had set, so the first fireflies of the evening would begin to flare in a bit. She sat on the windowsill and enjoyed the cold, shaped pineapple and watched as squirrels ran along the telephone wires, perfect sine waves with their bodies and tails. Sitting there, she had her second ice pop as well, until the fireflies began to float magically above the patches of grass and sidewalk." 

“Make the machine part of your life. A part of your day. Do not use it a few times, then need room on the table and close it back into its case to sit on a shelf in the back of a closet. Do that and you may never write with it again.”


 "In her living room she opened the windows to get a bit of breeze. The sun had set, so the first fireflies of the evening would begin to flare in a bit. She sat on the windowsill and enjoyed the cold, shaped pineapple and watched as squirrels ran along the telephone wires, perfect sine waves with their bodies and tails. Sitting there, she had her second ice pop as well, until the fireflies began to float magically above the patches of grass and sidewalk."

I'm not a Hollywood fan, nor I enjoy watching films all that often. My tastes lean more on British and European Cinema. I don't read actors' biographies or books written by celebrities. However, in the case of "Uncommon Type", it's Tom Hanks we're talking about. I can't think of another actor who makes you feel as if you actually know him, as if every role of his is performed for each and every member of the audience. He is widely loved in Greece, he is widely loved everywhere and quite a few of his films are considered classics of the 7th Art. This collection of short stories is written in a simple, eloquent, flowing writing style. Humane, immediate, confessional. It is a brilliant token of the distinguished American writing, it is the voice of Tom Hanks, the Everyman, and if you don't like it, well....you need Jesus in your life.

In 17 stories, Tom Hanks creates characters out of life. The inspiration seems to be the types of New York (mainly) residents, even some of the roles he has performed in his astonishing career. Each story is embellished with the photo of a typewriter that plays a characteristic part in many of the stories. The importance and joy of writing is everywhere, the need to communicate feelings and thoughts first to ourselves and to the people around us. His themes are universal and relevant to our daily lives. Love, companionship, the errs and joys of the past, self - dignity, immigration, togetherness and a deep, acute feeling of nostalgia. A journey through the USA, with the metropolis of New York ever present, in one way or another.

So, without further ado, the 17 stories are:

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks" : Two best friends decide to become an item, but they seem to be highly incompatible. Poor guy starts feeling as if he has signed for the Olympics preparations or the NASA training. Anna is one of the most authoritative people to ever grace a book and this story is hilarious and nostalgic at the same time.
"Christmas Eve 1953": A beautiful Christmas story that takes us back to 1953 and to 1944, the D-Day, its aftermath and the wounds, physical and psychological that are inflicted upon those who survived the inferno in the shores of Normandy.
"A Junket in the City of Light" :A story about a rising Hollywood star and the ordeals coming from exhausting press junkets and over-demanding studios. Paris, during the night, provides the beautiful setting.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- An Elephant in the Pressroom" : A glimpse into the conflict between the printed version of a newspaper and the coldness of reading your newspaper on a digital device.
"Welcome to Mars": A sad tale of the bonding between a father and a son, a story full of the sun, the sea and surfing.
"A Month on Greene Street" : A story set in the sleepy suburbs, during the dog days of August. A divorced mother of two starts a new life in a welcoming, peaceful neighborhood. This is a text filled with the laughter of children, the soothing early evening atmosphere, and a certain kind of hope for starting anew.
"Alan Bean Plus Four" : We revisit our unique couple of "Three Exhausting Weeks" in a story that brings "Apollo 13" to mind.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- At Loose in the Big Apple" : A celebration of New York in the form of an account from our grumpy (but sweet) journalist with a tiny bit of nostalgia for a more innocent era.
"Who’s Who?" : The Big Apple is the city where dreams are supposed to come true. However, young Sue from Arizona, an aspiring actress who can act and sing and dance finds her dreams crushed all too soon. Until, a sudden appearance proves that possibly, dreams can still become reality...A beautiful story of youth and aspirations set in 1978.
"A Special Weekend" : The story of a boy who loves typewriters and airplanes, living a difficult life after the divorce of his parents. I confess that the end gave me chills...
"These Are the Meditations of My Heart" : A story of impeccable writing and immense beauty that reminded me -once again - how much I love typewriters.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- Back From Back In Time" : Our favourite reporter takes a trip down memory lane escorted by his trusted typewriter.
"The Past Is Important to Us" : This story was a true surprise. A combination of Historical Fiction and Sci-fi where a scientist travels back to the 1939 for the sake of a woman. An impressive look into a potential future and a tale that shows how closely linked the past and the present actually are.
"Stay with Us" : This story is written in the form of a film script and therefore, it really flows. Departing from Las Vegas, a wealthy, kind hearted businessman and his personal assistant find themselves in the middle of nowhere and change the lives of the residents, while finding a new meaning in their own. This is a story full of happiness, camaraderie and trust.
"Go See Costas": In this story, Mr. Hanks celebrates diversity, multiculturalism and companionship, without whitewashing the problems and the fears faced by the immigrants. His love for Greece is more than well-known, and here we find Greeks, Cypriots, Bulgarians. Set in the heart of the era of immigration to New York, this story is a hymn to the abilities and persistence of hardworking people who desire a better life, without forgetting their principles and without resorting to shady means. A tale that shows that people may come from different backgrounds (economical, educational, ethnic), but these factors mean very little when we are faced with adversities. In the end, it is the heart that matters. A story that couldn't be more relevant to the chaos and conflicts of our times.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- Your Evangelista, Esperanza" : The grumpy reporter gives the spotlight to Esperanza who reminds us that there is actually life without a smartphone, Facebook and the like.
"Steve Wong Is Perfect" : The last word belongs to the insane gang of the beginning and to bowling. Hilarious and nostalgic.

This is a collection to be cherished and kept as a good friend to whom we may return when in doubt and in need of a comfort. Not because the writer is named Tom Hanks and heralded as one of the finest actors to ever grace our screens. This is a book of simple, unpretentious beauty. 17 stories of people who could be our neighbours, our friends, our lovers, our parents, written in the immediacy and clarity that characterizes the majority of American Literature, a trustworthy volume like a trustworthy Royal typewriter. Let it carry you away....
Tom Hanks clearly loves typewriters. He wrote this up on one, which is really quite cool if you think about it. He made me want to get one just for the sake of it, which, for me, demonstrates a large part of the effectiveness of his writing:

“Make the machine part of your life. A part of your day. Do not use it a few times, then need room on the table and close it back into its case to sit on a shelf in the back of a closet. Do that and you may never write with it again.”
The best story in here was “These are the Meditations of my Heart,” which is where this quote came from. It’s a brief story about a woman who falls in love with typewriters and what they can bring to someone’s life. As such Hanks recognises the power of words throughout along with the power of literature and the power of communication. I feel like this was the strongest element of his writing. Typewriters are used through many of the stories and they are deeply emblematic of what words can achieve. Sometimes they just do what spoken language can never do and for the woman in “These are the Meditations of my Heart” they have the power of salvation and refuge.

As a recurring trope this is narrative gold; it really did help to make the stories feel like a collection rather than a load of random bits shoved together, which many writers fail miserably to do. However, I did have a few issues with the book. I just don’t think Hanks can create male characters very well. The women he writes about are all complex individuals, often dealing with some repressed history and using every ounce of energy they have to get on with their lives. They almost all seem to be going through some sense of internal crises with a big smile on their faces.

There’s much more beneath the outward appearance of the women. They are well-rounded and I do feel like they have lived a troubled life. The men, on the other hand, are plain and ridiculously straight forward. They all felt flat and simple. I feel like they walked on the page the moment I read them, having not experienced life until the moment of that story. It might be that Hanks just preferred to write about women and chose to give the men the backseat in their passivity here. For me though it felt unbalanced and a little careless, especially from a collection that appeared to be striving towards a presentation of the realities of life.

The good and the bad

There is no denying the fact that Hanks can write, and he can write rather well, though I think he needs a touch more imagination when devising his plots. Many of them felt rather ordinary and a little bland, flavourless is the word I am thinking of. He also needs a little bit more forcefulness when delivering his endings. Although this is a collection of short-stories, and they do go very well together, I think the characters needed a bit more of a distinguishable voice. Without the type-writers, this would have all fallen apart.

Overall though, there are some entertaining stories in here (some less so) though I think Hanks’ inexperience as a writer often diminishes them. I feel that many could have been a lot better than they were. If anything, Hanks shows us the potential he has to be excellent over time. And I give him my whole-hearted respect for this venture. His name will sell the book alone; however, his skills just need a little bit of sharpening to get him to the next level.
This short story collection is warm, surprising and engaging. 
Each story envelops the reader with its own unique sense of place, time and character; the most endearing characters of all may be the typewriters who find their way into every story. Tom Hanks' vast perspective and experience is relayed with wit and warmth, leaving one craving an audio book with the clacking of typewriters in the background. He manages to capture what the American dream means for a recently arrived immigrant, a veteran, a newspaper reporter, and so many more. My favorites included the Hank Fiset columns, "These Are the Meditations of My Heart" and "Stay With Us."
Thomas Jeffery Hanks it seems can do just about anything. 
He has won so many awards for his acting that he uses Golden Globe statues to tenderize the chicken breasts for his world famous, and yet nutritiously responsible Chicken Cordon Hanks dish. The hit at many Spielberg potlucks. He produces, writes, and directs films. He is always very funny and his David S. Pumpkins character is recognized internationally for it’s technical genius and it’s subtle and clever insights into the human condition. Hanks is also politically active, he creates apps for your iPhone, and has been known to create low fat and low calorie recipes (that still has your family demanding second helpings) for Cooking Light magazine in his down time.

But that down time might just be getting a little shorter. With Uncommon Type: Some Stories, Mr. Hanks has whipped his raincoat open, hollered out a brazen, “Hey! Look what I have here” and exposed himself with no shame as one fantastic writer. One no doubt to be reckoned with.

The stories are all marvelous. Some are funny; there are three that involve the same group of friends ("Three Exhausting Weeks", "Alan Bean Plus Four", and "Steve Wong is Perfect") that would make even the crankiest curmudgeon give those neighborhood kids a break, allow them to recover the baseball that landed onto his yard without threatening their lives with his cane, and crack a smile. Other stories such as "Christmas Eve 1953" or my favorite, the immigrant tale "Go See Costas" will stick with you like for many many days after consuming. In this way, it is similar to my Aunt Gertrude’s meatloaf, but with way less burning sensations in the bowels, violent breaking of wind, and hallucinations. All 17 stories in this collection are thoughtful, smart, and absorbing.

Yes, it would be easy to hate Hanks. The guy is so flawless. He is talented and it seems he really can do it all. He’s the Tom Brady of Hollywood. However, put aside those hurtful negative feelings, grab a copy of Uncommon Type and jump on the Hanks Train! This is a great collection of tales and a fun read!
Tom Hanks is an actor who puts you at ease and you feel he is just a 'regular' guy. He appears to be that everyman and so comfortable to approach if you needed directions to an address or if he was your neighbor or your bank loan officer or mailman or ... just anybody. He is mostly called our modern day 'Jimmy Stewart' in his style and image, but I think of him more as our 'Jack Lemmon'. Hanks can be in a serious drama or a comedy and still give you that sense that he is universal in all aspects of his personality.

He produces the same feeling with this surprising fantastic new book of 17 short pieces of fiction.

That same ease and feeling of comfort is transcribed on the page. Hanks' wonderful eye and ear and the textures of everyday simple life are related in several of these stories and, also, his sense of irony and sadness. He has an aura of the 'everyman' in his acting and that shines in the observations of these tales.

Every story either features a typewriter or references a typewriter in some way. Each story is prefaced by a photograph of a typewriter from the past. One story (a favorite of mine) is all about a typewriter entitled THESE ARE THE MEDITATIONS OF MY HEART.

Hanks knows the wonder of being a simple young boy spending a weekend with his divorced mom and her new 'friend' who takes him on a plane ride. He gets himself into the mind and experiences of a divorced mom moving into a new house and neighborhood with her kids and feels weary of the single dad next door. He, also, gives the reader a bit of heartbreaking sci-fi and several entries by an old fashioned columnist who laments the passing of time and a frenzied story about an actor on a press junket. There are three stories about a group of friends, two of which work at a Home Depot. The last story STEVE WONG IS PERFECT is perfect in all ways. Another favorite is WHO'S WHO? about an aspiring depressed young actress who comes to New York City to find a job and finds heartache and despair, but finds salvation by a gay man 'city-wise' insider from her past who lives in the core of the Big Apple and knows how to avoid the 'worms' who wiggle through that apple.

Hanks notices the 'little' things, the everyday pleasures and pain even if they take place in The Future. There are a few mediocre entries, but most are good, melancholy, smart, and truly funny.

I was truly amazed at the pleasure I had in reading these stories and surprised by his talent as a writer. IN some ways, I had the same feeling when I read a few of Steve Martin's short novels.
Having always admired Tom Hanks as an actor and a human being, I am happy to say I can now give him a 5 star review as an author. 
When I requested Hanks' collection of short stories from Netgalley.com, I thought reading these might be like the old truism about watching a dog walk on 2 legs: it's not how well he does it but that he does it at all. Then I plunged into this delightful collection and discovered Mr. Hanks has a range as deep and wide as his dramatic performances. The title "Uncommon Type" and the themes of the stories within frequently bring you back to old manual typewriters. There are detailed miniatures of a range of these old machines after each story. In some stories there is barely a mention of a task being carried out on a typewriter, while one story is a paean to the craftsmanship of these machines. It is a unique theme to unite the tales, some of which are set back a few generations , while others are far in the future and another combines the old and new in a fascinating tale of time travel. Hanks' eye for detail makes each story rich with a sense of place. He has clearly done his research, whether it is on the subject of surfing, space travel or the theater. No doubt much of the verisimilitude comes from his own experiences as an actor, but it never feels added just to display his knowledge. The Uncommon Type of the title also focuses on the characters within each story, and this is where Hanks really shines. His appreciation for the common man and all his foibles makes the reader feel uplifted even when the ending takes an unexpected twist. I enjoyed every single story in this collection and look forward to Hanks trying his hand at a novel.

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34368390-uncommon-type

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