Book Review: Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks

When I saw that Tom Hanks had written a book, I was very intrigued and  extremely excited to get my hands on it. He's such an amazing actor, and so likeable. He seems like a genuinely decent human being, and I was interested in what he had to say. Or write, in this case. 

Uncommon Type is a collection of seventeen short stories. 
I'm not a lover of short stories. Something about the format never appealed to me  and although I did very much enjoy Edgar Allan Poe's stories as a young teen, I couldn't even finish Alice Munro's Runaway - not because I didn't like it, just because I lost interest somewhere before the last few stories. Y
ou see, I am somewhat of a bulimic when it comes to books and stories, and I like to dive in and barely come up for air (and by this I mean, pause my reading) until the end. Short stories don't allow me to do that. I have to pause between each one. I have to say goodbye to the characters I liked after only a few pages, when I usually need a few hundred to properly prepare myself. I also tend to need a fairly substantial reading break between stories. So I usually devour a novel in a few days, and it'll take me a few weeks before I can really let myself be enthralled in a new book. Short stories paint a very frustrating portrait of myself, one where I binge on a story in a few minutes, but can't seem to read another one right away, thus making finishing the whole book seem like a daunting task. 

But I digress. Enough about me. 
I did manage to read all the stories, albeit a little painfully. And I didn't dislike them. I even liked some of them. But not many. Not the way I wanted to. 

The stories struck me as a little erratic. All over the place. Some were good, a few really good, and some were just average, bordering on boring. 

Maybe it was partly due to the fact that I had high expectations, and that I couldn't detach Tom Hanks the author from Tom Hanks the actor, but while some stories made me forget about it all, a lot made me feel like I was just reading some famous actor's essays for that writing class he's taking to pass the time (or worse, to build his ego).  Now that's not what I think of Tom Hanks. I just think the writing was a bit inconsistent. Brilliant at times, sprinkled with clichés and images that felt a bit forced. 

Speaking of forced? I am completely ignorant when it comes to the context of this book. I haven't read anything or seen any interviews about why Tom Hanks wrote this book or how. But I am pretty certain he has a thing for old typewriters? Well, they are old by definition but you know what I mean. It might have sounded like a great idea at one point to include an anecdote about a typewriter in each story as a sort of common thread.. but it wasn't. It felt forced, unnatural, and a little too obvious. I thought it was amusing when I first realized it after a couple of stories, but then came to expect it, almost wondering how the author would plug it in, sometimes making it fit within the storyline with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop because there's just got to be a typewriter. 

So unfortunately, no, I didn't love the book. But, oddly, I do think fondly of it. The characters in Uncommon Type are pleasant for the most part, the clichés comfortable. The writing is surprisingly rich despite the lack of subtlety of some parts, and it certainly didn't feel like a cheap celebrity memoir. 

* I received this book complimentary for review purposes. Thoughts and opinions are (obviously) my own


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