The Hottest State: A Novel
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The Hottest State: A Novel [Hardcover]

Ethan Hawke
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

Yes, it's "that" Ethan Hawke. Ethan Hawke the actor. In this slim debut novel, he tells a coming-of-age tale of a fairly unpleasant young actor from Texas named William who lives in Manhattan and is working his way through an ugly little relationship with a singer/songwriter named Sarah. William's parents married young and split up early and he's not too happy with the world at large. Sarah can't quite make heads or tails of her mother. The pair has sex in the bathroom and talks quite a bit about their relationship. It all has a certain ring of truth, but at this point it's probably safe to say that Hawke's movie agent will probably make a better living off the young actor/writer than Hawke's literary agent.

From Publishers Weekly

Player of confused but adorable Gen X Romeos in films like Reality Bites and Before Sunrise, Hawke, 25, is easily conjured up as a stand-in for 21-year-old William Harding, the disaffected narrator of this slim first novel, a boy-meets-girl, girl-dumps-boy saga set in a grungy New York of aspiring actors, writers and singers. That William, a college dropout and budding actor, falls fast and hard for Sarah Wingfield, who fronts a band, teaches preschool and is a bit "funny looking," comes as a revelation to him, given his history of using his good looks for quick sex. Sarah casts William's sexual yearnings?and his white trash boyhood?into sharp relief by reading Adrienne Rich, toting a list of rape statistics and refusing to sleep with him. Their doomed romance is intercut with William's memories of his parents' breakup, of talks with his best friend and of his overheated teen relationship with Samantha, who still flits in and out of his life. When Sarah suddenly, inexplicably rejects him after William returns from making a movie in Paris, he descends into self-loathing and homosexual panic?and trashes his apartment. His callow cynicism about women and his flattened out, '90s rendition of Holden Caulfield ("Samantha wanted to have sex. She wasn't doing me any goddamn favors") grow wearisome. But Hawke's emotionally raw account of a world inescapably contracted is oddly affecting and sure to make many a teenage heart go pit-a-pat. Paperback rights to Vintage; audio rights to Time Warner AudioBooks; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Plenty of 25-year-olds have written novels worse than Hawke's, but very, very few of them wind up getting published. When singer/love interest Sarah asks actor/ protagonist William if he likes acting, William replies, " 'It's the only thing I've ever been good at.' " Hawke's novel does nothing to introduce any distance between creator and character on this score, although viewers of his films might disagree. The story is simple. William moves to New York, meets Sarah, and takes her to Paris. He doesn't treat her all that well, so she dumps him. Along the way the reader is treated to so many mixed metaphors, confused images, laughable similes, and hackneyed, banal emotional moments that one can only stop laughing long enough to wonder how this material got past a professional editor. A sample from a sex scene in which William and Sarah switch clothes: "I walked closer to her?this woman in my underwear?seized by a strong desire to make it with her, to burst through her dress, taking her like a Scotsman (I am part Scottish)." Or after an extended tryst: "The scent of sex was thick. I never wanted to take a shower again." Not recommended.?Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A first novel by the young actor featured in the Dead Poet's Society has a lot in common with the world of his film Reality Bites: It's a young man's idea of hip romance, with plenty of gestures to satisfy teeny-bopper fans. Hawke's mercifully brief story is really an extended hissy fit over being dumped by the type of girl his narrator doesn't usually date--she's a bit plump, rather graceless, not beautiful by conventional standards. She is, of course, smart, which is important to 21-year-old William Harding, a working actor in New York City who admits he's got by on his good looks and charm. Certainly not his intellect--he's impressed by his ability to recite a long poem by Gregory Corso by heart in response to Sarah's reading to him from Adrienne Rich. His own mother warns him about the limits of life as ``a handsome bullshitter,'' but William blunders along, full of his own importance as he lovingly records his every little foible and endearing personality trait, which seem to include smashing furniture when he's frustrated. Sarah, meanwhile, withholds sex, and hands him a tract on ``Rape and the Twentieth-Century Woman.'' Pouting William must use a condom when the big moment finally comes. A Parisian interlude, where he alludes with false modesty to his career, contributes to their breakup--she realizes that she needs space, and William is sent packing, back to his beautiful, empty-headed girlfriend from the past--but not before reciting Shakespeare to Sarah from the street outside her apartment. This clumsily written novel takes itself very seriously, although it is mostly content to name but not to show: We have to take Hawke's vague descriptions of ``brilliant'' friends, ``great'' books, ``stupid'' hair on faith, and then there's that ``French'' moustache on a waiter in . . . France. Skip the movie, if there is one. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


The Hottest State is ultimate that: a sweet love story. -- The New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

"Touching and engaging...Authenticity is what carries The Hottest State."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"Hawke does a fine job of showing what it's like to be young and full of confusion."
--The New York Times Book Review

"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 London Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Hawke does a fine job of showing what it's like to be young and full of confusion. "
--The New York Times Book Review

When William meets Sarah at a bar appropriately called the Bitter End, he is a few months short of his twenty-first birthday and about to act in his first movie. He is so used to getting what he wants that he has never been able to care too deeply for anyone. But all of that is about to change. And it is Sarah--bold and shy, seductive and skittish--who will become William's undoing and his salvation.

William's affair with Sarah will take him from a tenement on the Lower East Side to a hotel room in Paris, from a flip proposal of marriage to the extremities of outraged need and the wisdom that comes only to true survivors. Anyone who reads The Hottest State will encounter a writer who can charm, dazzle, and break the heart in a single paragraph.

"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 London Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ethan Hawke's films include Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites and Before Sunrise. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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