Finally, a novel about the travails of a successful White guy! What could pull the heartstrings of our afflicted nation tighter than a story of brief, emotional setback suffered by a handsome movie star? Ethan Hawke has got a lot of nerve. But he’s also got a lot of talent ... what’s most irritating about A Bright Ray of Darkness is that it’s really good. If you can ignore the author’s motive for creating such a sensitive and endearing cad, you’ll find here a novel that explores the demands of acting and the delusions of manhood with tremendous verve and insight ... I want to be immune to Hawke’s charms, but I admit it: He’s written a witty, wise and heartfelt novel about a spoiled young man growing up and becoming, haltingly, a better person. A Bright Ray of Darkness is a deeply hopeful story about the possibility of rising above one’s narcissism. Bravo.
William gets plenty of male commiseration about the difficulty of staying with one woman, and some dubious wisdom on the tribulations of marriage: Above the buddy bonding and the father figures, this is ultimately a book about the transcendent value of great art, and in its slightly overblown way it communicates a real power.
Hawke has crafted an engaging work of literary autofiction, a story clearly drawn directly from his own personal experiences, yet rendered in such a way as to not feel bound to his life as it was lived. It’s something that many writers – many talented writers – fail to pull off, but he manages it quite deftly ... This tale of an actor struggling with his shifting reality – moving from a world of movie stardom to the Broadway stage, torn between accepting his crumbling marriage and striving to reassemble it – and making sometimes questionable choices in the process is tightly woven and densely packed, a meditation on masculinity and the value – both external and internal – of the redemption he seeks through his art ... The more personal side of the narrative – William’s gradual acclimation to the idea of his marriage truly ending – is just as engaging, but a little less fun ... It comes to life – all of it – through the telling. Hawke manages to treat the various excesses of the situation frankly while never making things overly sordid. His obvious love for the stage is infectious and accurate, as is his affection for the sorts who populate that world.