Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

‘Uncommon Type’ isn’t ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ and that’s just fine. Very few albums are.

Albums like ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ that you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a single track, are few and far between. The same can be said for short story collections. ‘Uncommon Type’ by Tom Hanks was as surprising as it was wonderful, even if it was no ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.

Hanks likes to say that when he first started out, his writing was lacking a voice. Well, there is no evidence of that here. His voice is strong, and unique, and his prose is thought-out and confident. He is best, I found, when exploring the inner workings of his characters. The young man in ‘Welcome To Mars’ who makes an unfortunate discovery; the single-mom of ‘A Month On Greene Street’ and her reluctance at embracing her new neighbour; a lost soul in need of a friend in New York, New York, in the story ‘Who’s Who’; the broken-yet-whole veterans of ‘Christmas Eve 1953,’ and the enigmatic yet distant mother of the boy in ‘A Special Weekend’. These stories are tender, and beautifully written, and I really felt that we were getting the real Hanks here.

Strangely, the story I didn’t connect with so much was the very story most reviewers claim is the standout of the entire collection. ‘Alan Bean Plus Four’ was entertaining, yes, but I could not connect with it at a deeper level, perhaps because I found the concept behind it so absurd. The same could be said for time-travel tale, ‘The Past Is Important To Us’. Another story I did not connect with was ‘A Junket In The City Of Lights’ as it seemed too on-the-nose, to be honest. We know Hanks is a famous actor, and this insight into what a press-tour can really be like was interesting, but obvious. It didn’t surprise the same way the others did, even though it was brilliantly written.

Of 17 stories in this collection, I found fault in just three of them. That ain’t half bad! In fact, ‘Uncommon Type’ is an exceptional collection of short fiction by a strong, fertile literary voice. I will be going back for second-helpings, and hoping that Hanks has caught the bug to write more. Because he really should.

‘Uncommon Type’ isn’t ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ and that’s just fine. Very few albums are.

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