Dear Tom Hanks,
It’s been a few years now that the events I will describe to you have occurred, and I think I have enough emotional distance to convey my story without any bouts of bewilderment. This all came about a few months before the release of your short story collection in October of 2017. It’s just a case of mistaken identity. Well, my mistake of your identity.
It all started when I received an email from One Story regarding “A Month on Greene Street,” written by a Tom Hanks. At first, I thought it odd that the author didn’t realize his name was the same as the two-time Oscar winner we all have come to know and love. It couldn’t be the real Tom Hanks, after all, an actor wouldn’t have the desire to dabble in what seemed a lesser art. I imagined this Tom Hanks as some creative writing graduate, who after years of trudging through some dead-end job buried by paperwork, and who has amassed a collection of literary journal rejections, has finally arrived and has been able to publish something of value that deemed worthy of an editor to publish. Yet, I found it humorous that this Tom Hanks didn’t realize that his name would be mistaken for the great Tom Hanks. One would think that as a precaution, an unknown author would change his name to avoid having one’s work being mistakenly attributed to someone far more famous. Maybe Tommy Hanks or Thomas Hanks, or perhaps even T. Hanks, would help distinguish the author and avoid any conflicts (I would have given the same advice to Elizabeth Taylor. No, not the actress, but the writer). But then again, what kind of a person doesn’t know who Tom Hanks is? Maybe this was someone born near the back swamps of Florida and had no real connection to the outside world, or even worse, had a delusional view of reality around them, much like most movie and book critics. Or maybe this was some clever marketing ploy by editors at One Story, to be able to sell a couple of extra copies to confused readers. Or maybe this was a mistake on an epic scale, and someone somewhere was going to lose their job.
After a month, I had almost forgotten about this oddity until I made another discovery. I came across an old short story in The New Yorker, “Alan Bean Plus Four,” by this same Tom Hanks, whom I came to find out is also an actor. What are the odds! I still held the notion that the two Tom Hanks were separate individuals. It was inconceivable that you, the great Tom Hanks, would devote precious time to writing a short story, a means for lesser artists to make a foothold. Tom Hanks painting, yes, or Tom Hanks composing music, yes, but writing a short story. That’s tantamount to you starring in frozen peas commercials. It seemed beneath you.
Then in October of 2017, the separate worlds of the two Tom Hanks I held so dearly collided together. I was floored after reading Amazon’s details regarding your upcoming book, Uncommon Types. Slowly, I came to terms that my obscure, but struggling writer Tom Hanks, and the legendary actor Tom Hanks were one and the same, and I could only utter one word in my shock.
Mr. Hanks, please understand my predicament, and the plight of all struggling writers yearning for our chance to be recognized, vying for the attention of literary journals, hoping to be acknowledged for our works which we toil over endlessly. Must you tread on our ground? I’m mean, really, I get it, you’re bored. You’ve conquered all the terrains around film: acting, screenwriting, directing, producing, and finally singing. You’ve been honored with a multitude of awards, so many in number that now some are used as paperweights, door stoppers, hammers, garden gnomes, and as other creative décor or tools around your villas. You’ve even reached that pinnacle of your acting career, a longing of all actors, that utmost sign showing that you’ve made it as an artist, by hosting Saturday Night Live, and multiple times mind you. Like the 90’s Nike-Bo Jackson commercials, you know it all, because you’ve done it all: Tom knows film, Tom knows TV, Tom knows awards, and now Tom knows books. For God’s sake, we get it. You can do anything. With all these achievements, must you also take the faint limelight meant for us, short story writers?
Please, Mr. Hanks, we all love you, and I implore you to let this short story collection be your last foray into the world of literary publishing. Once you have all your awards from your first collected work, please refrain from making more and give others a chance. Please think of all the struggling writers, both young and old, from whom you will be taking the spotlight. Not only will you be nabbing their potential awards, but you will also be taking away their desire to live. Alas, being a published writer is not as glamourous as you think, and this world pales far in comparison to the world in which you come from.
But if you’re really bored, maybe try your hand at rocket science. I’ve heard that field referenced many times for its difficulty. And who knows, maybe you might pave the way and be the first to colonize the red planet, finally answering that gnawing question: Does Tom know Mars?
With best regards,
B. A. Varghese
B. A. Varghese graduated from Polytechnic University (New York) with a degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently working in the Information Technology field. Inspired to explore his literary side, he has earned a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida. His works have appeared in STORGY Magazine, The Bombay Review, FRIGG, and other literary journals.