Uncommon Type

Yes, you can judge a book by its cover.

My sister (bless her) bought me a copy of Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type, his first published work of fiction.

In this plush hardback edition, typewriter key-tops feature on the inside cover pages …

As it says in the blurb, and as you’ll know if you read Chad Camello’s typecast review from last year, a typewriter plays a part in each story (sometimes incidental to the plot, sometimes central) and related typewriter illustrations precede each story.


In Steve Wong is Perfect, the last story in the book (about a man who worked for Home Depot and broke the record for consecutive strikes in ten-pin bowling) the mention of a typewriter is limited to …

His bowling bag—that lovely yellow and brown leather—was behind an old beat up plaid typewriter case on the highest shelf in what was his sister’s closet, next to a box that held about a hundred old Barbie dolls with vacant smiles and impossibly trim waists.

The illustration shown before the story is (yes, you’ve guessed it) an old beat up plaid typewriter case.


In the story A Month on Greene Street a typewriter is more central to the plot: Bette, a single mom newly established in suburbia, has visions and misgivings about her new neighbour, Paul Legaris, who has “telescopes and typewriters laying around the house” …

[…] he was bent in concentration over a hunk of machinery that looked like it had been made in the 1800s.
Klock klock klock klock klock.
The machine was a typewriter, though it looked like no typewriter Bette had ever seen. The thing was ancient, something out of the Victorian era, a mechanical printing apparatus with hammers arcing onto paper rolled into the carriage.
Paul hit a key five times—klock klock klock klock klock—added a touch of oil to the inner levers of the typwriter, and repeated.
Klock klock klock klock klock.
This was how Paul Legaris could ruin a peaceful morning on Greene Street, servicing a writing gimrack straight out of Jules Verne.

Tom’s stories are entertaining, but for me the highlights of the book are a series of faux newspaper columns interspersed throughout the book—written, it seems, by Tom’s belligerent alter ego, “a small town newspaper columnist with old-fashioned views of the modern world” …

Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: An Elephant in the Pressroom …

[…] The Bull Elephant in the room says the Tri-Cities Daily News/Herald is giving up the economic ghost of a printed version …

[…] SUCH IS PROGRESS, but it makes me think of Al Simmonds, a rewrite man at the old Associated Press …

[…] AL’S TYPEWRITER WAS a Continental—a beast nearly the size of an easy chair—bolted to his desk, not because anyone would try to steal the thing. You’d have been foolish to have tried to lift it. Al’s desk was a small, narrow altar of editing. He would bang out his version of my copy—leaner, crisper, better, dang it—then flip up the typewriter on hinges, and on the cleared space go at his own stuff with a blue pencil.

Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: At Loose in the Big Apple …

[…] Up the steps a pair of Italian typewriters, large and small versions of the same model, were kept behind glass as if they were studded with valuable gems but they weren’t!
Nor were the machines more than fifty years old. I couldn’t help but think the Tri-Cities could put together a collection of used typewriters and charge admission. The now vacant Baxter’s Ham Factory on Wyatt Boulevard is available. Anyone civic-minded enough to get cracking on that?


Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: Back From Back in Time

IMAGINE THE LARGEST yard-attic-estate sale in the Western World combined with the Going out of Business Blowout of every Sears store in the country and you’ll have an idea of the scope of the Swap, as the regulars call it …

[…] I was about to retire to the snack bar for a lime shave when I set my eyes on an old typewriter, an Underwood portable of ebony that, I kid you not, gleamed in the sun like a Springsteen hot rod …


Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: Your Evangelista, Esperanza

CUPPA JOE, PAL? Addicted to the stuff! Coffee, that is. I’m a newsman, you see, and the newsroom that doesn’t run on coffee, puts out a lousy paper, I’ll bet.

[…] A tour of the caffeine parlors in our three conjoined metropolises will prove that good wake-’em-up is roasted, brewed, pressure-steamed, and poured in damn fine style.

[…] Java-Va-Voom on Second Boulevard at North Payne in East Corning has something no other coffee place can match. There is the whissh of the frother, the chitter-chatter of the staff and customers, and music, soft, in the background, like the musical score of a movie playing next door. Occasionally, there is also the click-clack made by a typist, but in no ordinary sense of the word.

ESPERANZA CRUZ-BUSTERMENTE born and raised in nearby Orangeville, is an Account Adviser for a local bank, though, to many people, that is her second job. Many folks know her as an EVANGELISTA, a typist who uses her words-per-minute skills for other people …


All of the above and plenty more considered, Uncommon Type  is well worth a read. It’ll look good on your bookshelf too!

3 thoughts on “Uncommon Type”

  1. It’s a very good book, indeed. I enjoyed your review, and encourage anyone interested in typewriters to get a copy. It’s hard to read them without hearing Hanks’ voice in your head. Enjoyable.


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