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Tom Hanks: In conversation about UNCOMMON TYPE at the Royal Festival Hall


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In celebration of the London Literature Festival, Tom Hanks discussed his first book, Uncommon Type, and read extracts in an exclusive event at the Southbank Centre.

Revealing himself to be a gifted writer, the Oscar-winning actor spoke humorously and honestly to critic and Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, Gabby Wood, giving a raw insight into his collection of 17 short stories.

Photo credit: Alice Boagey / Southbank Centre

Expressing his passion for typewriters and how the ancient device acted marvellously as a tool to help him get into his writing work, Tom Hanks said: “A typewriter appears somewhere like Easter egg in every story.

“Some are built on typewriters and other times you have to look a little deeper to find them.”

With seeping passion and precision, Hanks entertainingly read a passage from The Special Weekend, which follows a little boy Kenny and his newly divorced mother. His descriptions are so vivid, imaginative and refreshing; the dialogue creates a strong feel-good sensation.

Whilst explaining inspirations for the narratives, Hanks revealed that some locations and places are descriptions of where he grew up. He also speaks lovingly of his parents and other figures that have had a positive effect on his career.

He said: “There is one story in here called ‘Who’s Who’, it’s about a young actress in New York City in the seventies; it is shamefully stolen from my own experience to a degree.

“There is a character in it, who is based on two men who altered my life. Two gay men who I met as a young actor who took care of me when I first moved to New York City in a way that was filled with grace and acceptance.”

Delving deeper into conversation about meeting people who provide others with faith, support and love, Hanks sparingly called the auditorium for a group hug - a physical connotation of the warming influence his book provides.

Talking of a piece he once wrote for the New York Times, Hanks said that he was advised to "find a voice" and know the reasoning between each character of a story, which proved to be invaluable guidance when composing his book.

He read the audience a second extract from another of his stories based on the moving idea of hope and prosperity – which he said is essentially constructed from a conversation with his patriotic father-in-law who travelled from Bulgaria to settle in America.

Uncommon Type covers themes of humour, sentiment, optimism and courage. It contains a story of a small-town journalist with a dated interpretation of today’s world, a tale of an exciting journey to the moon on a home-made rocket ship and a hilarious affair between two friends. Some of the stories are even presented in different forms, including a screenplay and a newspaper column.

Tom Hanks proves his writing is an artistic force, and a brilliant stimulus for literature.

Watch the full, live conversation here via the Penguin Books official Facebook page:

For full information on Uncommon Type isvit:

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