A Bright Ray of Darkness

A Bright Ray of Darkness

A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke

Previously, a note from the book tour. Captured in the first pages, ripped along by an evocative authorial “voice,” and despite superstar status?

I wonder if that is a universal reaction to King Lear, puzzle with it until the end when I cry? Happened twice now, years apart, and it’s not like I don’t know what will happen. (Page 23.) Hint: it’s in the title, The Tragedy of King Lear. However a simple bit of narrative inside the opening pages sort of hits a note with me.

There’s also, and I have to wonder how reductive this can get, a brilliant passage about what it means to be an actor. Like Hamlet’s passage to the actors, what to do, what not to do?

My respect for Scorpio knows no limits, especially Scorpio males born of grad student parents — in Austin, no less.

The novel’s set-up is a movie actor with publicly humiliating private life, looming divorce, played out against the backdrop of a production of Shakespeare’s Henry 4th, part 1.

At once, a meditation on stage as an art, the Shakespeare background a huge hook for me, and then, an authorial voice, plumbing the depths of the human soul.

“Navigating and spending your own emotional currency is difficult.” Page 92.

Actors, am I right?

Part way through, though, I started to feel a slight undercurrent, not toxic male masculinity, but that fevered, fetid sense of maleness, and what it is to be “manly,” and that includes being present for the children. Plus sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll.

How many readers think this is merely glossed or gaudy spin on the Ethan Hawke autobiography? That it pulls on those very heartstrings, sure, but there’s more — in active novel form.

Sex, drugs, and Shakespeare? Shakespeare in performance, and for those not totally onboard thus far? Shakespeare’s King Henry IV is divided into two parts, and the way I’ve seen it, either individually, or back to back? In the novel? The two plays are run together.

I miss Shakespeare live, I miss the summer Shakespeare camp performances, and while not up to some effete standards — the productions did shine — with youthful vigor and enthusiasm taking up the slack.

The novel is set against the backdrop of a production, an interesting choice in and of itself, as I recall the undergraduate professor explaining that the tetralogy — Richard II, then Henry IV parts 1 & 2, concluding with Henry V, the entire series was a rumination on “What it is to be a man.” Or leader, or king, or whatever. Not that any of Shakespeare’s works were politically motivated, but there is that.

It’s a “guy” novel? Maybe, as good a category as any? Wicked-good rhythm in the prose.

A Bright Ray of Darkness

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, plot, prose, pacing, but best — for me — was Shakespeare in performance ephemera. That was cool.

A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke

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