BLAZ­ING STAR

India Today - - LEISURE - —Divya Dubey

Over the last few years, In­dian pub­lish­ing has been bom­barded with big names from Bol­ly­wood. Such book launches, where Twin­kle Khanna, Sunny Leone, Karan Jo­har and Rishi Kapoor shill for their mem­oirs, au­to­bi­ogra­phies or short sto­ries, are in­vari­ably de­scribed as ‘star-stud­ded af­fairs’.

Whether or not any of them can write, the books sell like hot cakes, and some­times, the stars sur­prise with gen­uine tal­ent. As with Bol­ly­wood, so with Hol­ly­wood. Steve Mar­tin, Hugh Lau­rie and oth­ers have penned nov­els, and this month Tom Hanks de­liv­ers a col­lec­tion of 17 short sto­ries called Un­com­mon Type.

So, can he write? Yes, and bet­ter than most peo­ple would like to be­lieve. He may not ex­actly be a lit­er­ary gi­ant in the mak­ing, but he tells a good yarn, writes with a dis­tinct voice and cre­ates be­liev­able char­ac­ters—some of whom crop up in more than one tale. The very first story, ‘Three Ex­haust­ing Weeks’, has its char­ac­ters re­cur in ‘Alan Bean Plus Four’ and ‘Steve Wong is Per­fect’. They are also per­haps some of his best sto­ries. It’s quite easy to imag­ine the au­thor play­ing the male pro­tag­o­nist in a TV/ movie adap­ta­tion of most of them.

Hanks also ex­per­i­ments with form. The char­ac­ter, Hank Fiset, for in­stance, is a colum­nist in a news­pa­per strug­gling to sur­vive. He is also, per­haps, the ac­tor-au­thor’s al­ter ego whose own sto­ries oc­cur in col­umn inches more than once. Hanks draws a great deal from his ex­pe­ri­ences as an ac­tor. ‘A Jun­ket is the City of Life’ is a fine sam­ple. To US read­ers, the sto­ries may seem hack­neyed. For the rest of us, they can be fresh and en­gag­ing.

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