October 28, 2014
Tom Hanks is the latest actor to try his hand at fiction
by Jonah Simonak
Tom Hanks, the actor known for his long, successful career on the silver screen, has decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first contribution to the literary world is a short story called “Alan Bean Plus Four,” which just saw publication in the hallowed pages of The New Yorker last week. The story follows four southern California friends and their trip around the moon. Hanks’s narrative style is colloquial, enthusiastic, and at times, pretty funny. One of the piece’s recurring (and best) details concerns the pricing of different space-themed iPhone and iPad apps. Tom is a très topical writer.
A fairly obvious connection to this short story would be Apollo 13, one of Hanks’s most well-known films, but, in an interview with the same magazine that published “Alan Bean Plus Four,” the actor-turned-writer notes that his interest in space travel took hold well before 1995. He attributes photos of astronaut Ed White in Life to helping spur his decades-long interest in the cosmos, and “cool-looking helmets and such.”
While Tom Hanks may be the most recent actor to turn to fiction writing, he is by no means the first. Let’s take a look at some other memorable forays into literature from Hollywood’s finest.
A couple years back, Molly Ringwald, the star of such classics as Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, wrote a collection of interconnected short stories called When It Happens to You. The collection focuses on the everyday dramas of a California family. In his somewhat favorable review of the work for The New York Times, Dan Kois describes Ringwald’s prose as “careful” and “thoughtful.”
Then of course there’s James Franco, who dabbles in pretty much every art form, to mixed results. 2010 saw the publication of Franco’s debut fiction effort, Palo Alto, a collection of short stories about bored teenagers getting up to no good. Most reviewers deemed the collection unoriginal and lacking substance, but generously noted its potential. Perhaps its potential was realized with this year’s Gia Coppola directed adaptation of Palo Alto, which was met with generally positive feedback.
In 1999, a few short years before his retirement from acting, Gene Hackman’s debut novel landed in bookstores across the globe. Co-written with his buddy Daniel Lenihan, Wake of the Perdido Star is a 19th Century action-adventure story that takes place on the high seas. Hackman successfully followed up this maritime tale with several other adventure-based works of literature.
Is it good that actors are writing books? Does their fame give them an unfair leg up? When will Franco release a shoegaze album with Faulknerian liner notes and a Richard Prince designed cover?