My mom bought a signed, hardover copy of this collection of short stories by Tom Hanks when it first came out. I was fully planning to borrow it once she had finished it, but then I went on Overdrive one day and saw that my library had the audiobook (narrated by Hanks) available to borrow right away, so of course I lost no time in downloading it.
It’s delightful. One never knows what to expect from an Oscar-winning actor turned writer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Hanks’s writing. Each story is exactly as long as it needs to be and no longer. A few of them are sad, but most of them are just sweet, feel-good stories about a person, or a few people, and their lives in the limited sphere they inhabit.
I don’t think every story features a typewriter, but most of them do, and the physical copy of the book features a different picture of a typewriter between stories. Some of the stories feature a typewriter front and center as part of the story, while others include a typewriter in the background, but they’re still noticeable.
What struck me was how obvious it was that Hanks knows his typewriters. If I were writing something with a typewriter in it, I would say there was (or so-and-so was using) a typewriter, and then I’d move on. I would certainly never think to have a story revolve around a typewriter.
Not only does Hanks put a typewriter at the center of some of his stories, but most of the typewriters he mentions are described in detail. He gives the color, the brand, how well it works, which keys stick, standard tests for determining how well a typewriter works, and lessons used to teach typing (which I took a long time ago and have since forgotten).
Because I had access to both the audiobook and the hardcover, I switched back and forth a lot and I can’t recommend one over the other. As much as I love the easy access of digital books, I also love the feel of a hardcover in my hands and I appreciated the pictures of typewriters throughout the book.
That said, Hanks, of course, does a wonderful job of narrating his own work. To top it all off, the last story is written as a script and he enlisted some of his friends (including Oak Park’s own Cecily Strong) to help him narrate it and it’s as delightful as the rest of the collection. The audiobook also features the sounds of a typewriter at the very beginning, which I feel performs the same job as the pictures of the typewriter in the physical copy of the book.
So don’t read or listen to this wonderful collection of short stories just because Tom Hanks wrote it. Read or listen to it because each story is delightful in its own way, and a great way to escape the current political shitstorm.
What did you guys read this week? Anything else that exceeded your expectations?