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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Stunt-csting short fiction in The New Yorker: Tom Hanks

In the literary magazine equivalent of stunt casting, the New Yorker this week publishes a story by Tom Hanks, yes, that Tom Hanks, called Alan Bean Plus Four, yes it's about astronauts and the NASA space program, which Hanks has been definitely interested in every since Apollo 13 - I believe he was the exec producer of a TV series on the Apollo missions - none of which means he is a writer let alone a writer of New Yorker stature, but I have to admit his story shows a real sense of humor, smart use of language, good pacing - real literary fiction chops. It's a comic fantasy about a group of 4 pals, Hanks in the lead because of his knowledge about space exploration, that decide to build a rocket and capsule and launch themselves into a single lunar orbit and return - much easier to do  these days, they figure, in that there's better technology in an iPhone than in the entire Apollo lunar capsule - and so they go ahead and do it, to comic effect. Sure, it's a lightweight piece - probably more suitable to a Shouts & Murmurs entry than the short fiction prized real estate, but it's a good read, not pretentious in the least, and makes us wonder: Would they have accepted it had it been written by, say, Joe Banks? Probably not, but that's true for a fair amount of NYer fiction and a great deal of NYer poetry for sure. Does Hanks have it in him to write more pieces, or was this a one-off? Can't say, but a lot of the humor does come from his deep knowledge of the space lingo - though he most also know a lot of Hollywood lingo, and there's endless material in that vein, so I hope he goes at it. His style reminds me a little of Woody Allen's New Yorker pieces, now sadly seldom seen. And what's next? Sean Penn on Classical Music? Dr Dre on The Dance? Kim Kardashian among Our Far-flung Correspondents?

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