Texas Book Festival 2017: Tom Hanks
in Conversation With Lawrence Wright

When writing, the Oscar winner seeks moments of serendipity

So the adorable Tom Hanks has a thing for typewriters. He loves to talk about them, write about them, collect them, compare them, and act out typing on them. He even loves to for-real type on them.

Tom Hanks (Photo by John Anderson)

“When you type on a typewriter you stamp ink onto the fibers of paper. And what you put down there, it stays there forever," Hanks told a Texas Book Festival audience of 1,200 at First Baptist Church on Trinity Street. This is how he wrote his debut short fiction collection Uncommon Type: Some Stories. In every story in the book, somewhere there is a typewriter, and there are pictures of his own throughout.

Hanks (l) and Lawrence Wright (Photo by John Anderson)

Hanks and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Austinite Lawrence Wright sat in big leather armchairs to discuss Hanks’ writing. The stories seem reminiscent, though Hanks explained, “I don’t write from a plethora of nostalgia. I write from a lack of cynicism. I’m not interested in cynicism – not to say I’m not cynical. It’s just I’m most interested in those strange moments of serendipity. I think stories are really about characters making connections they didn't expect to make.”

The talk went on for an hour and a half, and Hanks simply could not sit still. Over the course of the session, he acted out at least four scenes, recited Shakespeare in iambic pentameter, led the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" to a 21 year old, and exuberantly proposed marriage to one audience member for another, then noted that she “could have done a little better.” He then playfully attempted to flip the interview on Wright, who sat quietly, entertained and smiling, waiting to lead us into the next level of discussion. They played beautifully off each other like the pitcher in practice who sets up his batter for an explosive hit.

Photo by John Anderson

“You are clearly a great writer. Why did it take you so long to write this?” Wright asked. “I don’t know,” Hanks replied. “Lack of discipline. Shoddy public school education. Confusing childhood. For me, it has always been about reading great work and translating it [into acting],” Hanks said. “I wrote this and I could send it to my wonderful editor and just be like, 'I don’t know,'” Hanks added, shrugging his shoulders.

“I’m a softy. I don’t believe that antagonist character really exists. People all look at things differently with different opinions. Some are stupid. But outside of Darth Vader and the Nazis, I don’t think that antagonist character is realistic,” Hanks said. "That's not real life."

Photo by John Anderson
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Texas Book Festival, Texas Book Festival 2017, Tom Hanks, Lawrence Wright

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