Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Hottest State by Ethan Hawke

The Hottest State  by actor, director, screenwriter Ethan Hawke was published in 1996.  I came across it on a library shelf when I was looking for something else.  Always being a fan of Ethan Hawke's film roles I thought it would be interesting to give one of his novels a go.

The narrative is told in the first person from the point of view of William a twenty year old Texan actor living in New York.  The story takes place in the months around his twenty first birthday.  It is mostly concerned with his tumultuous affair with Sarah, a young singer and childcare worker.

Hawke writes really well.  The book is fast paced and engrossing.  The character of William is fairly unsympathetic, but I found myself hooked into the story non the less. For the most part William comes across as a self absorbed, vain and idle young man.  He  also appears painfully insecure and vulnerable at times.  There is something relatable and uncomfortably real about the relationship between William and Sarah as it unfolds. He captures very well the pain and insecurity of young relationships.

Sarah is a handful for William, she does not conform to the usual glossy types he is used to being around.  The relationship brings William face to face with himself.  There is some wonderful character development as William is unhappily forced to learn relationships aren't just about his needs and projections.

I could see how some might find The Hottest State a bit self indulgent on Hawke's part, but to me that was part of the point.  It has a similar "Generation X" slightly neurotic feel to it like the film Reality Bites.   Above all I was impressed and surprised by the quality of Hawke's writing.  He can really write.  I enjoyed it and look forward to reading Hawke's other novel "Ash Wednesday" at some stage in the future.


  1. Your last paragraph is really good. I was able to instantly understand the style :) Great review!

  2. I wondered if Ethan Hawke was as good a writer as he is an actor. Thanks for the review :)

  3. I was wondering if you got the feeling that some of the material may have been based on his own experience?
    Nice to know that he can write as well as act :)

  4. BG - yes certainly I think Ethan Hawke also spent his early years in Texas and may have dropped out of college too, as William in the novel does. The rest, not sure, it does have a raw personal feel to it. I have not read anywhere where he claims it to be based on himself.

  5. Borrowing your picture for my review of the same book; hope its alright, cheers.


Comments are very welcome.