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Tom Hanks: I Write From Cynicism

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Tom Hanks in Austin Tom Hanks in Austin

Actor Tom Hanks is also writer Tom Hanks: it was that persona on display at the Texas Book Fest this month. Speaking to a sold-out audience of more than 1,000 people in Austin, Hanks was here to promote his new book Uncommon Type, a collection of 17 short stories.


Hanks said the first book he read for pleasure was The Hobbitt, “and in 6th grade I read Hailey's Hotel.” Later he “fell in love with the plays of Eugene O'Neill and Shakespeare.” All this informs his approach to writing now. “I don't write from a plethora of nostalgia. I write from cynicism.”


Hanks elaborated by saying that as a cynic, “I am interested in wrong or strange moments of serendipity in which our lives change. Everything that happens in our lives is about interactions with people who have different ideas. People connection: there is a power of direction that goes along with it. That is the kind of dynamic I relate to.”


Surely an inspiration for his collection of short stories was the first such collection he ever read: Who Am I This Time? by Kurt Vonnegut. A thread that runs through each story of Hanks' book is mention of a typewriter, which reflects his own fascination with the machine.


It began in 1986 when he went to Israel to make a movie. “I walked by a store that had this Hermes baby typewriter.” He now owns 140 typewriters. “A lot of them are just objects of art from the 1930s to 1960s,” but he does use many of them. “I like the permanence that you get from typing anything. It will last as long as the carvings on Westminster Abbey.”


Photo copyright Sun News, by C. Cunningham


Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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