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The Hottest State


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About the Author

Ethan Hawke's films include Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites and Before Sunrise.


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"

'A sharp, moving tale' Company 'A lust story that crackles and burns like a firework . . . a likeable book, nicely filled with meditations on absent fathers, doubts about masculinity and a cast of feckless characters who have more hang-ups than a cloakroom.' Esquire 'The ideal gift for that ever-so-slightly-self-absorbed young person of your dreams.' GQ 'An impressive debut' Daily Telegraph

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. (Oct.)

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