While I mostly read popular fiction and memoirs, I do have a soft spot for short stories. I think David Sedaris is the master of this craft.
On a recent trip to Worcester, MA, I was browsing in Bedlam Book Cafe when a bright book cover caught my eye. It was seafoam green with pops of yellow and it turned out to be a collection of short stories written by none other than actor Tom Hanks.
Uncommon Type offers 17 short stories, divided by photographs of typewriters. The stories appear in a variety of formats - some designed like newspaper pages, some written like movie scripts - which keeps it interesting.
I was hooked from the very first story, "Three Exhausting Weeks." It's about a single man who starts dating a very Type A woman. She proceeds to try and change everything about him, only to give up when she can't reshape him into her dream mate.
"The Past is Important to Us" was also great. It's the story of Bert, a man who time travels back to 1939 to attend the World's Fair in New York City. He's immediately enamored with a woman he meets there, but his time is limited. He attempts to return to that moment again and again, to treasure any time he can have with her (no matter how dangerous the process).
My favorite story in the collection was "These Are the Meditations of My Heart." It's about a woman who purchases a typewriter at a yard sale, right after a painful break up. It winds up needing significant repairs and she finds herself in a sparing match with the owner of the repair shop. He gives her overviews of each typewriter for sale in his shop, personifying them with attributes and behaviors. It reads like "The Dating Game" for this gal and her future machine.
She winds up purchasing a new one, which I think served as the inspiration for the book's cover art. On page 239, "In her apartment, she did as instructed, as she had promised. The seafoam green typewriter went on her little kitchen table, a stack of printer paper next to it. She made herself two pieces of toast with avocado and sliced a pear into sections, her dinner. She pulled up her iTunes on her phone and hit PLAY, putting the phone into an empty coffee mug for amplification, letting Joni sing her old songs and Adele her new stuff as she nibbled at her meal. She wiped her hands of crumbs and, finally, in the blush of ownership of one of the finest typewriters ever to come down from the Alps, she rolled two sheets into the carriage and began to type."
This book is 403 pages, but unlike a novel, you can stop and start with each story, as you have time.
I was tickled to see Hanks thank actor and comedian Steve Martin in the acknowledgements. It's always fun to imagine two A-list celebrities working on a personal project like this together.
Now for the fun part, to decide what to read next!
*Images courtesy of The Guardian and Uncrate.