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’s prose isn’t unlike his acting—amiable, punchy, and prone to monologues—and his talent for rounding out the story with verbose oddballs remains as enjoyable now as it was in 1996’s The Hottest State and 2002’s Ash Wednesday ... It’s charming at times...and tiresome in others...but never uninteresting ... Hawke, a rubbery actor whose career has long pivoted between stage and screen, has invaluable, accessible insight into both the culture of Broadway and the experience of enduring it as a relative outsider. He juxtaposes the lofty rhetoric of the theatrically minded, who tend to frame performance as holy and universal, with the personal, unglamorous memories that truly fuel art ... the author’s clear-eyed writing here helps the reader better appreciate the rawness of his screen and stage work, if only for how fiercely he’s wrestled with its effect on his own identity ... This is a book about Ethan Hawke, and that’s exactly why it works.