Ethan Hawke is a popular, as well as, a good actor. In fact, his acting prowess had already been acknowledged with an Oscar nomination in the film Training Day, alongside Denzel Washington. He was married (he was still happily married to her during the making of his novels) to an equally popular and gorgeous actress, Uma Thurman, but aside from the glamour and trappings of Hollywood, what do people really know about him? Perhaps not many people are aware that Ethan Hawke, aside from being a successful actor, is also a writer.
And not just an aspiring writer, but actually someone who has already published two books in his name. His books may neither have sold multi-million copies worldwide nor been critically-acclaimed but it has garnered enough attention from readers and critics alike for being a good read. Because of his published books, Ethan may have already be considered and seen as not just Ethan Hawke, the actor, but also, Ethan Hawke, the writer. Indeed he has gained respect from many critics for being someone who could actually write and had something good to offer.
Critics can greatly influence readers’ reception of a book. They can rave about a book and trigger enormous sales, or express disgust over a piece of work and still create enough curiosity for people to buy a particular book. In Ethan Hawke’s case, his popularity may have been enough of a ‘come on’ to buy his book and a boon to his prospects as a fledgling writer, which under ordinary circumstances may not have earned him as much attention. However, his being a celebrity had also been a disadvantage to his reputation as a writer.
As importantly as the critics, readers’ would still spell the bottomline success of a novel, that is, would it sell enough and be interesting enough to read. And would it lay down a good reception or anticipation to the release of subsequent novels. I have come across customers’ reviews on Ethan Hawke’s debut novel, The Hottest State, and came to read most of what they had to say. There were harsh commentaries and some fairly good raves and praises about the book. One of the customers’ reviews in Amazon. com read (Amazon. com, 2002): The recent Ethan Hawke media onslaught made me curious enough to want to read his work.
After all, he’s had two novels published. Must be something there, right? Wrong. This novel is truly awful. Let’s start with the male character. The terms “narcissism” and “pretention” were coined to describe William, a “victim” of the evil temptress Sarah. Feminists and Freudians would have a field day with Hawke’s portrayal of this neurotic woman. As one reads, one hopes that William will get himself to a shrink to work out his mommy issues, but one knows that it’s too late. So that’s two hollow caricatures, now on to the plot. Oh, sorry, there is no plot.
In short, the book could be said to be about young, screwed-up love, but I suspect it’s really about William’s fantasy of how rotten women are. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest “classics” shelf. If you’re interested in troubled love, you can’t go wrong with Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” or Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night. ” Phillip Roth’s “Goodbye Columbus” is also a good one. For a nice, wacked-out love triangle there’s always “Henry and June. ” Hell, there must be a million great novels out there on the subject of love troubles. Unfortunately, Hawke’s novel isn’t one of them.
Out of 154 customers’ reviews, only 22 gave out a rating of below 2 stars (out of 5 stars), 11 gave 3 stars, 39 voted 4 stars, and a majority of 82 for 5 stars. Based on this figures, readers who liked Hawke’s debut novel clearly outnumbered those who do not. This was a good indication that the votes accounted for something more than his celebrity and popularity, it was indeed indicative of his talent for writing. Upon reading The Hottest State, I saw that the style of writing had an amateurish quality to it, as well as an uncanny ‘autobiographical’ ring.
The flow of dialogue between the two lead characters was at times a bit forced at playing ‘cool,’ but this could be attributed to the fact that it was a first novel, still a bit raw and unpolished. But indeed, as a debut novel, it was a very promising one with a lot of flare and spunk, it was unpretentious and simple. It gives a peak at the writer that he would potentially become in his future works. A critic wrote about The Hottest State: “Beguiling. . . . Full of the freshness of love and the agony of loss. . . . Hawke is a good writer who has produced a worthy first novel.
It pleased and moved me. ” –Mary Loudon, The Times (London) (cited in the Amazon. com, 2002) In an interview with Dave Weich, he said that his basic writing approach is through characterization (Hawke, 2002). The actor in him would start thinking about characters from where the story would be built. He admitted that he was not as interested in plot as he was in characters. His being an actor definitely helped in his talent for writing, for not many actors can write, and it is not fairly common for writers to be actors.
But Ethan’s experience in acting and his exposure to plots, characterizations and dialogue, lends meat to his creativity. This creativity finds further outlet in writing. Hawke’s sophomore attempt in writing and possibly, to secure a place in the society as an authentic writer surprised many people. As opposed to his debut novel, his second book titled Ash Wednesday was seen not as “autobiographical fiction” but rather a book that was mature and funny in its narrative. If there were many who doubted Hawke’s first shot at writing, Ash Wednesday convinced most readers and
Critics alike, that yes, Ethan Hawke can write. Readers and critics found the second novel as enjoyable, introspective, and characters that were very interesting. Like many writers who draw ideas or inspiration for writing due to actual occurrences in their lives, Ethan Hawke had likewise drawn the inspiration for writing Ash Wednesday from the changes that were happening in his life at that time. He loved acting for the collaboration it entails among everyone involved in making the movie, and he loved the creative independence that writing a book brings.
Writing the second book was not without pressure, for Hawke, he was responsible in applying all that he has learned from writing his first novel. Although his second novel was not without its share of negative reviews, most have expressed sincere praise for it. A number of them have specially mentioned a particular scene in Ash Wednesday that has pleasantly surprised them due to its good writing and insight, the basketball chapter between Jimmy (the main character) and a 13-year old boy.
It was seen to be among the favourite parts of the book and had shown the ability of Hawke as a good and sensitive storyteller. Ethan Hawke’s first novel did want for a clearer plot and more sincere and “unforced” dialogues, the period between The Hottest State and Ash Wednesday made a better writer out of him. On the question of whether or not Ethan Hawke can write, my opinion is, he can. And he does it well although with some room for improvement especially in laying out his plot.
While he banked in the strength of his characterization and the way he was able to bring out their distinct and ‘interesting’ personalities. Some exceptional authors make it big and right the first time, perhaps most, like Ethan Hawke, may take a few novels before he would able to fully improve and perfect his craft to the fullest, a talent as a writer that is obviously and glaringly there. Bibliography Amazon. com. (2002, August 7). Retrieved March 4, 2009, from Amazon. com: www. amazon. com Hawke, E. (2002, August 6). The Year of Ethan Hawke. (D. Weich, Interviewer)
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