Tom Hanks is one of those lovely and annoying people who are great at what they do. Then they also turn out great at other things they turn to. And we cannot even dislike him for it, because he is the definition of a Hollywood’s nice person. The good guy. Annoyingly this collection of short stories basically proves the point. They are good, show tenderness for people, and let us have fun.
I was a bit apprehensive about this book, as so often people who become famous somehow think they will automatically be good writers. The disappointing books galore ensue. But Hanks manages to pull it off. In a way, the collection feels humble and that’s what gives it credibility.
The first story cracked me up, it is about a group of oddball friends. Two of them at one point start dating, a super-hyper energetic Anna and the narrator who lives a life of blissful indolence. The clash of their attitudes is roaringly funny but also shown by Hanks with a lot of understanding for both sides. This cast of characters will also show in a few other stories.
We meet single mothers, actors, old journalists, people reminiscing about their past and planning their futures. We jump through space and time, ending up in the 1950s and on Mars (there’s a bit of a surprise there). People change their lives or they get changed for them.
Two things that run through all the stories are nostalgia and typewriters. Tom Hanks has been collecting typewriters through most of his life and his love for them shines in several of the stories. I think they are also connected with the sense of nostalgia and yearning for the less complex past that permeates the stories. It’s not about idealizing the past, but more a yearning for human connection. For a place and time where people can focus on people, more than technology, politics, and achieving productivity targets.
Was it a brilliant collection? No, and I think comparisons to Alice Munro are a bit exaggerated. But it is a strong collection, that I really read with pleasure. A book that you want to spend your time with because it feels warm, without becoming overly sweet.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska