• A Bright Ray of Darkness

  • A Novel
  • By: Ethan Hawke
  • Narrated by: Ethan Hawke
  • Length: 7 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (247 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The blistering story of a young man making his Broadway debut in Henry IV just as his marriage implodes - a "witty, wise, and heartfelt novel" (Washington Post) about art and love, fame and heartbreak from the acclaimed actor/writer/director.

A bracing meditation on fame and celebrity, and the redemptive, healing power of art; a portrait of the ravages of disappointment and divorce; a poignant consideration of the rites of fatherhood and manhood; a novel soaked in rage and sex, longing and despair; and a passionate love letter to the world of theater, A Bright Ray of Darkness showcases Ethan Hawke's gifts as a novelist as never before.

Hawke's narrator is a young man in torment, disgusted with himself after the collapse of his marriage, still half hoping for a reconciliation that would allow him to forgive himself and move on as he clumsily, and sometimes hilariously, tries to manage the wreckage of his personal life with whiskey and sex. What saves him is theater: in particular, the challenge of performing the role of Hotspur in a production of Henry IV under the leadership of a brilliant director, helmed by one of the most electrifying - and narcissistic - Falstaff's of all time. Searing, raw, and utterly transfixing, A Bright Ray of Darkness is a novel about shame and beauty and faith, and the moral power of art. 

©2021 Ethan Hawke (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Explores the demands of acting and the delusions of manhood with tremendous verve and insight...the work of an author who knows every aspect of the profession from the inside.... Hawke is a genius at conjuring the hush of the auditorium, the thrill of live actors, the magical sense of a performance moving through time. He’s written a witty, wise, and heartfelt novel...a deeply hopeful story.... Bravo.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Ethan Hawke pens a Valentine to theatre in A Bright Ray of Darkness. His new novel is also a prayer for the stage and a reminder of the healing power of performance." (The Austin Chronicle

"[Hawke's] writing evokes both the beauty and tawdriness of New York. And he teaches the reader a lot about theater...an engaging book for those who love theater and Shakespeare." (The Christian Science Monitor)

What listeners say about A Bright Ray of Darkness

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A Powerfully written dissection of an Actor’s Soul.

Hawke takes the Reader on a rollercoaster ride between a husband destroying his marriage and Family by his own actions and an actor destroying his play and his performance by his own actions. Back and forth, up and down, into and out of his brain, heart and cock, we follow his powerful words that perfectly capture this tortured soul. He exposes every facet of his pain.

It’s an exhausting train wreck that you don’t want to take your eyes and ears off. This is what words are for and Hawke uses them beautifully. Take a few hours and bathe in this book. Five stars.

3 people found this helpful

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This will be the book I recommend to everyone in 2021...

... okay, perhaps not *everyone*. The appeal might not be universal (people who are easily offended by sexual content should avoid) but if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into, this is a great listen.

In fact I’ll start with the *listen* part. Hawke is a fantastic narrator. Wow. It makes sense. He’s an actor, and he’s the author, but listening to this book is like getting your own one man show. Truly the best book I’ve ever listened to in terms of the narration.

The story... I’m not even sure how to describe it. On the surface it seems simple, but in truth there’s so much more than meets the eye. A NY based film actor has been unfaithful to his rock star star wife while shooting a movie in South Africa. As they separate and head towards divorce, he returns to NYC to perform Shakespeare on Broadway. The story is set against the backdrop of the play, from the first table read to the closing performance, and the book is divided into acts and scenes as opposed to chapters. Listening gives you the added bonus of hearing music play between each act and during “intermission.”

As William, the main character, who clearly shares a lot in common with Hawke himself, navigates his first Broadway performance, the listener learns about his history, his thoughts, and so much more.

I don’t want to say too much. Honestly, you need to read/listen to it yourself (I highly recommend listening) to see what you get out of it. As I listened I thought of former colleagues (teachers) who I know would enjoy the story. I also thought of actor friends who would definitely relate and probably get more out of it than I did. And then there are other people, like me, members of GenX, who know Ethan Hawke’s work and might be curious about what he has to say. (A lot of people probably don’t realize how incredibly smart and talented he is, not just as an actor, but in a number of other areas as well.)

Okay, if that doesn’t convince you, Just listen to the sample!

3 people found this helpful

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A bright ray of darkness

Here one can find acting lessons.
Here one can find steamy sex narratives.
Here one can find a psychological counsel to deal with guilt in marriage.
Here one can find imaginations for relationships, for selfishness, for what might be.
Follow William, or is is Ethan, from gritty carnal knowledge, to self-hatred, to freedom, and relate yourself in his journey to find your own redemption.

3 people found this helpful

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For the lover of theater

I’m not sure if I would have loved this book as much had it not been read by the author himself. Ethan Hawke’s skills as a write and actor culminate magnificently in this audiobook. The main character in this novel seems like the main character in a video game, with not a whole lot to say himself, but nearly every person he comes across in his life feels free to bloviate at length on the star’s career, personal life, and situation in general in excruciating detail. This story of an actor suffering the dissolution of his whirlwind marriage with a hyper popular rock star, public scrutiny, existential crisis, gives us all kinds of wisdom and outlooks from everyone from the rude cab driver who rails at him about his infidelity in chapter one, to his acting icon who imparts his wisdom on the younger performer later in the novel, to a coked up contemporary pontificating on the ways and wiles of women.
Hawke’s performance is captivating. His slight changes of intonation for each character are subtle yet utterly distinct. The passion with which he performs had me riveted, titillated, and kind of in love and awe. The sex scenes are as intense and gritty as the main character’s moments of intense self loathing and despair.
Anyone looking for a juicy read (or listen) full of both relationship and on stage dramatics is sure to love this. As a bonus I’m a lover of Shakespeare, so having the main characters experience in a Broadway production of Henry IV to pepper in Shakespeare dialogue and the behind the scenes details of performing it was a wonderful luscious bonus for me.

1 person found this helpful

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Deeply introspective. Realization that your art, whatever it may be, is as a journey

Hearing the writer’s voice realizes the journey through his storytelling as alive, emotive and genuine. And that the purpose of the everyday mundane and painful “slog” may just be the seminal details of what is most significant to living. The fact that he recognizes these bits of everyday happenings and anecdotes as pieces of a greater whole, give the reader pause to recognize there is little more significant, than being present in your own life.

1 person found this helpful

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Ethan bares his soul and exposes wounds—courageously brilliant writing

If you know Ethan’s character “Jesse” in Before Sunset when he is asked if the love story he wrote was about his real life… the same question could be asked in a similar way about if this fiction was loosely based on the period of his life separating from his Hollywood wife.

But this is far from the tabloid nonsense—this is great introspection as his character meanders through life trying to find his way and the characters he meet along that path guide him and enlighten his perspective (though they may appear as enemies, fools, children, comic relief, family, and so on) everyone he meets contains a powerful message. This process reminds me of another one of his movies “Waking Life” where the main character visits various personalities in through the vehicle of dream and each combine to perform an enlightened worldview.

Such great moments in the story that encapsulate the theme like when his son rejoices realizing he doesn’t have a “drinking problem” because “drinking problem” doesn’t mean drinking juice it means alcohol—the main character reflects — “I wish all life’s problems were simple like when you were a child, all just some big misunderstanding.”

Ethan is not only the best actor in Hollywood over the last few decades but he is also a very underrated author—I also enjoyed Ash Wednesday and Hottest State.

1 person found this helpful

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Love this book

Ethan gives great pathos to a whole cast of characters, and the story supports a clear picture of each one in your mind. Special shout-out for the way he performs the producer’s speech—it’s hilarious

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soars like a hawke

what a lovely story. read by its thespians author I do think this is the best way to consume this story. beautiful and tragic and wonderful.

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Incredible production without doubt!

Basically, I judge the quality of my audiobooks by when instances where I will replay certain chapters and in this case it happened so many times. The scene where Harding is driving around with his friend Dean ranks as one of my favs in the book. Also, I tend to think I'm a fan of snapping (it's another scene with Harding and his son that made me smile). Absolutely riveting scenes with genuine emotion where I felt that I was at an off-Broadway production rather than my listening during my commute. I certainly hope this will be the first of many Ethan Hawke written AND narrated books. I can't recommend this one more!

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Sheesh

Who gave Ethan the right to be so talented. Loved it a while lot. Thanks.