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A Bright Ray of Darkness

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  2,367 ratings  ·  477 reviews
The first novel in nearly twenty years from the acclaimed actor/writer/director is a book about art and love, fame and heartbreak--a blistering story of a young man making his Broadway debut in Henry IV just as his marriage implodes.

A bracing meditation on fame and celebrity, and the redemptive, healing power of art; a portrait of the ravages of disappointment and divorce;
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Hardcover, 237 pages
Published February 2nd 2021 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  2,367 ratings  ·  477 reviews


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Ron Charles
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
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.

The actor and director, who made his screen debut at 15, has published several books during his acclaimed Hollywood career, and he recently produced and starred in a spectacular TV adaptation of James McBride’s “The Good Lord Bi
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Tom Mooney
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Only a rich movie star could get away with this. Ethan Hawke really has got some fuckin balls, writing a novel in 2021 about the plight of the wealthy white man.

But, God, it's good.

Ethan Hawke is an author. Yes, yes, yes, I know he's actually an actor. A very fine actor. A twice Oscar-nominated actor (he has two Oscar nominations for writing, too). But he is also, without doubt, an author. That's about as good a compliment as you can pay to anyone switching crafts like this. He's an artist, if y
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Jeffrey Keeten
Just wanted to notate some of the quotes from this book I particularly enjoyed.

"When you finish a movie, they always forget to call you a car. When you are starting a movie, everything runs perfectly--town cars, hotel rooms, per diem--but once the film ends they couldn't give a shit."

"I'd forgotten what a kiss was like; I'd forgotten what it wwas like to hold someone who wanted to be held; who wanted you to launch your hnd up under her skirt; who was hpoing you would reach a little bit further;
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Andrew Smith
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I’m fascinated by Ethan Hawke: he acts, directs, writes and whenever I’ve seen him interviewed he’s come across as an engaging raconteur, articulate and thoughtful and with some interesting views on life. He hadn’t written a book in twenty years but in this new novel he documents the plight of a screen actor who is simultaneously dealing with the breakdown of his marriage whilst making his Broadway debut in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

William Harding is married to a beautiful rock star a
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Laura
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those novels, upon reading the first pages, I was completely caught up in the life of the protagonist. It's a gift to be able to write and reach someone that way. It's a treasure to be lost in a story where time seems to stop. Very much like the the creative process itself, I found flow. ...more
Doug
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5, rounded down.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Hawke is at least as accomplished a writer as he is an actor, since this is his fifth published novel, and he's been nominated for two Oscars for his screenwriting efforts. But I had never read any of his earlier works, so was pleasantly amazed at just how excellent this book is. At least some of it is autobiographical, since this circles around a production of Shakespeare's Henry IV in which 32 y. o. protagonist, bad boy film actor William
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Amber
Feb 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
I wish I had a dollar for every self-indulgent, white, male, narcissistic, misogynist protagonist I’m supposed to find sympathetic because they’re an “artist.” This reads like Kerouac fan fiction, the kind of crap that only got published because the author is famous. So, so much faux-deep philosophizing on the nature of fame/meaning of life—like drunk conversations at a Hollywood party. The female characters, unsurprisingly, desperately want to A. Have sex with the protagonist, B. Mommy the prot ...more
Ken
Feb 24, 2021 rated it liked it
Ethan Hawke. If that's his real name, it's a cool one. As for his movies, looking over the bio, I think I've seen only one: Dead Poets Society. And I only remember two actors from that movie -- Robin Williams as the teacher standing on the desk and the kid who ultimately offs himself at the end (tall, thin, dark haired, and most certainly not Ethan Hawke).

So why did I pick up this book? Ron Charles, Washington Post, assuring his readers it's much better than average. I don't know about the much
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Kristen Beverly
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Ethan Hawke's newest novel is a deep exploration of the philosophical thoughts of a sensitive man. It's about an actor, William, who is performing in Shakepeare's Henry IV on Broadway. He typically does movies, but he's determined to show that he's a "real" actor with real depth. But at the same time, his marriage is falling apart. From the rehearsals to performances to the teardown, we see William in the show and learning in life. It's no doubt that Ethan Hawke has real talent as a writer - my ...more
Drew
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5+ out of 5, I was almost ready to give it a 6 and call it one of my all-time faves except for a few really truly glaring moments of mediocre prose.

But holy moly. This book is astounding in its ability to capture the visceral realities of being onstage and performing, particularly Shakespeare. The story is that of a typical White Male Fuck-Up Novel: 32-year-old movie star has slept with someone not-his-wife, and his wife (a Gaga/Beyonce-level pop star) is now leaving him as the tabloids tear him
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Jonathan K
Oct 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A philosophical dance told through the eyes of an actor

Twice an Oscar nominee for his screenplays and likewise for his acting, it seems obvious this was one of Ethan's more personal stories and perhaps more. Having been blown away by his performance in The Good Lord Bird, I was compelled to read this novel. Like himself, the protagonist is a movie star struggling with marriage to a rock queen while he begins rehearsals for "Henry IV", his first Shakespeare play on Broadway. Several cast members
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Sean Smart
Mar 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Just brilliant and I wondered how much was autobiographical.
A surprisingly good writer, I will look out for more by this talented actor.
Olivia
Mar 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Was expecting more out of this novel. I’m assuming this is semi-autobiographical? Main character cheats on his famous wife when they have two small children. He then suffers the consequences in the public’s eye, rightly so.

The sex scenes were male chauvinist cliché drivel that seem to be written by a high schooler. All the women characters were just bodies and their only dimension was wanting to have sex with the main character, married or not, they were willing. If I read one more line about a
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Leesa
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I just love Ethan Hawke books.
JD
Apr 03, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2021, actorbooks
this is why i’m scared of men
Lori
I read his debut The Hottest State when it first came out and loved it so much that it's one of the few books I've actually spent time re-reading. I Haven't read anything of his since, but something about this one called to me.

I'm not sure what it was exactly, because the thought of reading a book about an actor starring in his first broadway play, doing Shakespeare of all things, while in the midst of a third-life crisis, didn't sound super up my alley.

But DAYUM people. Ethan Hawke narrates t
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Rebekah
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to like the novel because I liked Ethan as a younger actor. He had a boyish charm on screen, and I hoped he would write a memorable and moving book that fit my impression of him. Nope. He wrote a book that seemed more autobiographical than anything else. If one removed the cursing and sex, there wouldn’t be much left on the pages.

It is just a self-absorbed, self-pitying narrator who expects his soon-to-be ex-wife to show up and applaud his theatrical brilliance as he performs in
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Circe Link
Feb 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Passion! Poetry! Punchlines! Pussy! Holy literary pugilism Batman!
I’m not gonna say the book isn’t entertaining ‘cause it is, but man-oh-man I wish EH would get out of his own way.
There are some brilliant moments about art/acting and partnering/parenting that are honest and touching, but the rambling oft cocaine fueled monologues felt self conscious and the sex scenes actually made me angry, I’ll never forget “…her arms were so thin” Ugh.
Is this a memoir or fiction or just a tug of war betwee
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Kaloyana
Aug 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Etan Hawke is smart, intelligent, sensitive, experienced and very well spoken. I really love his writing as much as his acting. A bit too much Shakespeare language from the play.
Yukari Watanabe
I didn't know that Ethan Hawke could write such a beautiful novel. I was throughly impressed.

The protagonist (who reminds you of the author himself) is almost comically self-centered and self-absorbed. And he is aware of it. That makes it difficult for you to hate this miserable human being. Hawke knows how to make characters manipulate each other and, by doing so, the readers. And I enjoyed being manipulated. It was so much fun to read this novel.

BTW, he is still an a**. But he can definitely
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Michelle
Apr 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-audio
I almost did not want to add this book to my Goodreads shelf as I feel like it is politically incorrect to have really enjoyed it. It is a bad rich white guy acts like a total shit, shows remorse, gets what he deserves but you still feel for him kinda book. Loved it. Did I mention it was written by Ethan Hawke, who I also love? I don't read a lot of People magazine, but just the little I read about him on a review makes me think this may be a semi-autobiography. Did I mention that it was partial ...more
Carl
Mar 25, 2021 rated it did not like it
Ok I made it to the end. And there’s one brilliant passage on pg 127 (last paragraph) which superbly described the trepidation and guilt many of us carry with us in some particular situations, but that was it for me with Hawk’s return to novel writing.

I like the guy and really enjoyed The Hottest State and Ash Wednesday when I last read them 20 years ago or so. But it seems only one of us has moved on. And the sexist portrayal of almost all female characters in this makes like Me Too never happe
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Chris Haak
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I had never read a novel by Ethan Hawke (I only know him as an actor and director), so I was curious to find out if he could really write as well. Luckily he can.
'A Bright Ray of darkness' is an honest novel about a film actor who's now doing a Shakespeare play on Broadway and about his marriage falling apart. He feels insecure about acting and guilty and disgusted by himself for making a mess of his marriage. A very enthralling novel about acting, theatre, Shakespeare, love, marriage, sex, div
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Cristina
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
“My mad hopefulness was part of my illness. My outlook was so consistently off kilter, like when you are smashed by an ocean wave and don’t know which direction to find the sky and wind uplifting your head into the sandy bottom of the sea.”

* * *
“People are always all so much more strange than I first imagine.”


* * *

If the paradoxical title of Ethan Hawke’s latest novel is any indication, A Bright Ray of Darkness (2021) is about the complexity of a man coming to terms with the various pieces of h
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Jacqueline
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I started out listening on audible as I don't know Ethan Hawkes previous books and it was so enjoyable, like having a Broadway or West End play unfolding in your earbuds. Ethan Hawke, as you would expect, is a fabulous narrator.
I enjoyed it so much I bought the book and finished reading it the old fashioned way.
Both work it is a book of angst, love, sex, humour.
When it was being narrated on audible it was hard not to think it was autobiographical. I had to reread the blurb to remind myself this
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Pete Castleton
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! Hawke is a gifted writer. This "novel" loosely tracks with Hawke's performance of Henry IV at Lincoln Center in 2003, while he was separating from his first wife Uma Thurman. Hawke is one of my favorite theater actors and while this novel may remind you of the movie Birdman, this novel is not fantastical, more about the author, and even more insightful about the relationships and dynamics behind the curtain. It also reminds me of Martin Amis' recent semi-autobiographical novel, Insid ...more
LenaRibka
DNF at 23%

Well...the fact that I knew the background story of Ethan Hawke's marriage wasn't really helpful here: had I known nothing about the protagonist, maybe I could have seen the entire story from a different perspective. I had imagined that he wrote this book to process the failure of his marriage. No, he wrote it to tell us how "me-irresistable" he was/is/will be. And women are just tools in his "myself-admiration".

I like Ethan Hawke as an actor and I enjoyed his early works as writer, b
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Danny Hensel
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Interview with Ethan Hawke coming to Weekend Edition Sunday in a few weeks.
Gary Branson
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Well written story with a complex narrator. Especially enjoyed the setting, behind the scenes on Broadway.
Deborah
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Yes, that Ethan Hawke, who, in addition to directing and producing and starring in movies and TV series, has been writing novels for quite some time now. And doing it all very well. Don’t you just hate that?

Seriously, this is a starkly candid, (very) thinly fictionalized account of the period in 2003-4 when Hawke’s marriage to Uma Thurman was very publicly cratering and he was a movie star making his Broadway debut, in Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts 1 and 2, no less, in the physically demanding r
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Ethan Green Hawke is a four-time Academy Award-nominated American actor, writer and film director.

In 1988, Hawke was cast in a role in director Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society; the film's success was considered Hawke's breakthrough. He left school and appeared in A Midnight Clear, Alive, Reality Bites, Before Sunrise, Gattaca, The Newton Boys, Great Expectations, and many other movies. In 2001, he
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“Everything that’s happening, is happening inside the self. And whatever the self is, it is not William Harding the movie actor or the adulterer. Whatever the self is will not die when your body has worms crawling through your eye sockets.” 2 likes
“You do not need to be depressed about getting a divorce, cowboy. You may feel like you are dying, but let me tell you, you were dead! But the thing is, dead people don’t know they’re dead. You’re crying ’cause you are getting pushed through some kind of rebirth canal. Wake up and serve those children. Get the best custody deal you can—I don’t care if it’s one stinkin’ day a year—it will be one stinkin’ day a year they get to have a grown man for a father. You are a good man—go find a good woman—and have a good life. ‘Nice’ is not a bad word. Nice partner equals nice life. Crazy partner equals crazy life—you get it?” 2 likes
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