The biggest buzz for this year’s Book Festival of the MJCCA is actor-director Tom Hanks, whose appearance sold out very quickly. No doubt, he’s a charming guy with a humble demeanor. I was impressed with a segment on “CBS Sunday Morning” last year highlighting his collection of old typewriters and affinity for the written word. “Uncommon Type,” this publication of short stories, is his first collection of fiction.
The book is described as “poignantly playful” (Actress Mindy Kaling), “as charming and all-American as the actor himself” (Time magazine), and “spiked with humor, whimsy and insight” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). I choose to go with “spiked.”
No question Hanks has his way with words. His descriptions beget pictures: “out like a glass jarred boxer,” or the “sphere of a woman’s breast.” He crafts. He cares about what language he chooses. As in all collections, some you like more than others. I found the book frenetic at time keeping a “cray-cray” pace from place to place and a jab to code in proper names (MDash, B15K). His use of sounds was amusing: the klock-klock of typewriter keys, the bleat-bleat mimicking the European phone ring.
Overall, it’s a deft, funny, modern collection of stories. It’s as worldly as geography spanning the globe: Budapest, Vegas, Noo Yawk, Mallorca, Rio, New Orleans. Food details string through many stories.
In my personal favorite, “Three Exhausting Weeks,” the hyperactive girlfriend serves up buckwheat pancakes, vegetable lasagna, avocado on toasted spelt, beets and celery stew while he eats strawberry Pop-Tarts, Portuguese sausage and Cocoa Puffs. This was symptomatic of why they ultimately couldn’t see eye-to-eye. Question: With no one identifying as Jewish, why does he say “Shabbat Shalom” when they have sex?
The bottom line: Hanks has a lot going on in his brain and retains his title as “king of likeability.