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.
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.
At times, Hawke’s characters sound like they’re from B movies – a bit over the top. But elsewhere his writing evokes both the beauty and tawdriness of New York ... A Bright Ray of Darkness is an engaging book for those who love theater and Shakespeare. Harding’s journey may not be a unique one – he learns the unsurprising human lessons that celebrity is fleeting and human connections are enduring – but Hawke makes it fun to go on the ride with him.
A Bright Ray of Darkness does not quite appear to be a sequel to The Hottest State so much as a do-over, as Hawke attempts to write a novel drawn from the rich experience of life ... This time around, the novel is quite good, provided you are in the mood for the story of a successful, young-ish actor rending his emotional guts on the page ... It doesn’t pain me to admit that Ethan Hawke, successful actor, writer, director, producer, has written a very good novel.
A movie star who has suffered total tabloid humiliation plays Broadway for the first time ... A brilliant insider's account of the joys and terrors of acting, the trials of celebrity, and the secrets of Henry IV.
Hawke dramatizes the struggles of a Hollywood actor whose marriage has just ended because of his infidelity in this uneven roman à clef ... Harding’s relationship with his kids is underdeveloped, but Hawke’s behind-the-scenes look at staging a Shakespeare play provides the highlights, particularly his descriptions of the cartoonishly imposing Virgil. Hawke deserves credit for plumbing the dark depths of his doppelgänger.