Hanks talks type­writ­ers, helps a cou­ple in love at Texas Book Fest

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - TV TONIGHT - By Charles Ealy

About 1,000 peo­ple packed the sanc­tu­ary Nov. 4 at the First Bap­tist Church in down­town Austin to hear Os­car-win­ning ac­tor Tom Hanks talk about his de­but col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, “Un­com­mon Type,” with Pulitzer Prize-win­ning Austin writer Lawrence Wright.

It was the high­light of a day of events at the Texas Book Fes­ti­val, which was held at the Capitol and sur­round­ing grounds, with about 300 au­thors in at­ten­dance.

The day kicked off with Bar­bara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager shar­ing sto­ries about their new book, “Sis­ters First,” with book fes­ti­val co-founder and for­mer first lady Laura Bush on hand in the House cham­ber. The day also in­cluded a ses­sion with Dan Rather, au­thor of the new book “What Unites Us” and the re­cip­i­ent of this year’s Texas Writer Award.

But it’s safe to say that Hanks was the big­gest, last event of a day jam-packed with cook­ing demon­stra­tions, chil­dren’s events and mul­ti­ple panel dis­cus­sions on pol­i­tics and other cur­rent events.

Hanks was ge­nial and gre­gar­i­ous dur­ing his talk, re­veal­ing that he owns about 140 type­writ­ers. Yep, you read that right. He has a type­writer obsession, he says, and there’s a type­writer in each of the 17 sto­ries in his new col­lec­tion.

Why so much love for a rather tech­no­log­i­cally ob­so­lete of­fice ma­chine? Hanks says he loves the idea of per­ma­nence – of putting ink on pa­per, and that most of his type­writ­ers are from the 1930s to the 1960s. But he also says he loves the per­cus­sive sound of the keys hit­ting the pa­per, sig­ni­fy­ing that he’s headed for the end of some­thing and help­ing him along the way.

Of his type­writer col­lec­tion, he says with a laugh, “It’s eas­ier than col­lect­ing player pi­anos.”

He talked about his love of the late Nora Ephron, the au­thor and screen­writer of such Hanks hits as “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleep­less in Seat­tle.”

He says he com­plained about a scene be­tween a fa­ther and son in “Sleep­less in Seat­tle” and came up with new lines for his fa­ther char­ac­ter. Later, Ephron told him he was con­tribut­ing to the movie as a writer.

And that started the idea that he might be a writer. But the writ­ing didn’t come quickly. In­stead, he thought about it for many years be­fore at­tempt­ing his first short story.

Hanks read a part of one of his short sto­ries in the col­lec­tion, “A Spe­cial Week­end,” which fea­tures Kenny Stahl, a thinly veiled au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal char­ac­ter based on him­self. It deals with the 10-year-old who goes on a day trip with his mother in a sporty car, and his dad and his mother are di­vorced.

As Hanks dryly noted af­ter read­ing part of the story, “Mom and Dad found the loves in their lives,” and he says his mother “found it on her third mar­riage.”

Wright noted that nos­tal­gia played a prom­i­nent role in some of the sto­ries, but Hanks said that of the 17 sto­ries, 12 are con­tem­po­rary. “I write from a lack of cyn­i­cism” rather than re­ly­ing on nos­tal­gia, he said, adding that he’s in­ter­ested in “strange mo­ments of serendip­ity where our lives change … with great con­nec­tions that we don’t ex­pect.”

“I’m a softie, with­out a doubt,” he said.

And in that re­gard, Hanks neared the end of the ses­sion by read­ing a note from a mem­ber of the au­di­ence, who pro­posed to his date. The pro­posal came from a man named Ryan Mc­Far­land, and the ob­ject of his af­fec­tion was a Nikki Young. Both came up on stage, with Mc­Far­land kneel­ing and Young cry­ing in joy. Yep, Hanks is a softie.


Tom Hanks dis­cusses his book, “Un­com­mon Type,” with Lawrence Wright dur­ing the Texas Book Fes­ti­val on Nov. 4.

Tom Hanks pro­motes his book of short sto­ries, “Un­com­mon Type,” dur­ing the Texas Book Fes­ti­val.

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