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Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke
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Ash Wednesday

by Ethan Hawke

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» See also 15 mentions

English (11)  German (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Di solito guardo con diffidenza agli scrittori che nella vita sono "altro da...": attori, comici, cantanti ecc.
Forse Hawke ha sbagliato mestiere: non male come attore, ma di gran lunga più convincente come scrittore.
Il tema del viaggio fuori e dentro di sé è sviluppato con stile, nonostante sia un topos abusato. I protagonisti sono veri e credibili, umani nelle loro debolezze e nelle loro paure. Da leggere con calma, per riflettere. ( )
  LaPizia | Aug 3, 2017 |
I actually ddin't even finish this, but got halfway through and realized that I didn't care one way or the other about it's characters, at which point i figured it would be a waste of good reading time to force myself through it. ( )
  laurustina | Jan 14, 2015 |
How can characters who are so multi-layered and so well-developed somehow be problematic?

The problem is that the two characters at the center of this book -- the fledgling couple Jimmy and Christy -- are flaky (or eccentric if you prefer a term with a positive connotation). The problem is that eccentric people are always interesting -- but for arbitrary reasons. They are quitting jobs, doing drugs, getting married, quitting drugs, finding God, cleaning up their bad habits, starting up new bad habits, all for reasons that are hard to relate to. They are anti-heroes in their flakiness (Achilles, the Greek hero of the “Iliad,” is the classic example of flakiness -- refusing to fight a war out of stubborn pride).

Both characters are likeable in their own ways, but this likeability is overwhelmed by their unlikeable flakiness. In so many ways these are people you know -- people who seem very talented but can’t get out of their own way and inexplicability do dumb things. I’ve worked in education, so I meet these people all the time. It’s too frustrating and normal to be tragic. It’s mostly just frustrating.

Flaky characters present a particularly difficult problem for fiction. Fictional characters are often expected to go through some kind of meaningful change. But though eccentric characters change all the time, can their changes be described as meaningful?

It’s also the reason artists’ lives are rarely interesting, at least beyond short anecdotes. Hang out with someone like Andy Warhol for a night and it’s a story. Hang out with him for a year and it’s an ordeal.

Now that I have that (major) gripe out of the way, there is another secret to this book. Every reviewer is bound to underrate it because it’s written by Ethan Hawke. It’s easy to dismiss this book as the amateurish work of a vain actor, with a main character that mirrors many of his slacker roles (these reviews are in no short supply on Goodreads). But once you get beyond the Hawke name, the big secret of this book is that it is very finely crafted. The story is disciplined, every chapter works as a short story, polished and refined. The characters are well thought out. If anything, the story seems too deliberate and perhaps a tad overwritten. These faults, however, are the signs of an author who is trying to overcompensate for the missteps of a previous work (I haven’t read Hawke’s first book so this is just my guess.

What does this amount to then? A great book and a great second step in the maturity of a writer.

So where is the third book? Did Hawke give up after this one? Did he write a third book but never publish it? Or did he realize the overwhelming disadvantage of publishing under the Hawke name? Perhaps there is a third Hawke book out there hidden under pseudonym.

Is that all I have to say about this book? Well, not quite. I will be blasphemous. I will use Hawke and Hemingway in the same review. And why not? In some parts of this book, the characters disgusted me. This seems like a sin -- and then I remembered that Hemingway could disgust me. “The Sun Also Rises” had absolutely disgusting characters doing disgusting things, and I still think of it as a classic “youth and its discontents” novel. Can a good novel make you feel dread? Yes! Ash Wednesday at one point evoked a terrible sense of dread -- a sense that things couldn’t work out for the characters. This was the same feeling I had reading “To Have and Have Not,” a book I finished in two nights.

There is a manic energy that drives this book. “It’s amazing anyone lives to thirty” the young male protagonist says at one point. I used to feel exactly the same way. The characters, these two young characters who evoke dread and disgust, are people I know. They are EXACTLY like people I know. That makes the book necessary, horrible to read, and invigorating.

Is it possible to give a flawed book five stars? Sure it is. When you’re young and starting out as a novelist, you can only write imperfect novels. But this is a very, very good one. ( )
  DanielClausen | Dec 25, 2014 |
I chose this audio version of Ash Wednesday because I was curious about Ethan Hawke as a writer. I was astonished at the well written story telling. Hawke's theatrical training came into obvious play at his grabbing narration of an immature young man, James Heartsock, carrying his emotional baggage through life. "Jimmy" thought the army could either distract him from that baggage or eliminate it altogether. He was wrong on both counts.

Hawke created characters that are piercingly honest about human nature, human emotion, and compels the reader to relate to the honesty of those characters. His descriptive language enables one to visualize entire scenes such as describing the antics of a 3 year old in a restaurant who is sitting across from him during a serious conversation with his grilfriend. The scene doubles as a prophetic image Jimmy invisions for himself.

The reader may root for "Jimmy", but can predict the consequences of his actions in the real world no matter how heartfelt Jimmy's defective logic is. The ending is good but left me wishing there was a little more finality to it. Wanting to know what happens next, I guess, is a good sign. ( )
  gaillamontagne | Mar 30, 2013 |
A very human story.
And I say human because in this novel Hawke makes it possible to believe what's happening; it feels real.
Jimmy is an immature 30 year old soldier in the US army who decided to enrol because he didn't know what to do with his life after his father committed suicide. His life is a complete mess; he has no direction, no perspectives, no motivation. Except for Christy.
Christy has had a tough life, estranged with her father, a politician and womaniser who doesn't seem to connect with her needs, she decides to flee at 16 to get married to an alcoholic. She is divorced at 22 and she knows what to expect from life.
But when Christy and Jimmy meet, they can't help their mutual attraction. What seems to be only a sexual relationship becomes something deeper than none of the two could have ever imagined.
They hate each other most of the time, but the love each other more.
Scared of facing responsibility and of his own feelings, Jimmy leaves Christy, who is pregnant without him knowing it.
And that's the starting point of the novel. Christy going back home to Texas, alone and pregnant, and Jimmy, realising he is a piece of "shit" and that he has abandoned what he most treasures, so he decides to leave the army to chase Christy and ask her to marry him.
The chapters move from Jimmy to Christy's point of view; and one of the things I liked most about this novel is the way the characters think and talk about their life, their fears, their beliefs. And how they don't agree most of the time, but somehow that makes them even closer.
This is a story about love, friendship and life, not the kind of sweetened life we find in romantic stories, but the tough life we have to live and endure every day.
Ethan Hawke has proved that, apart from being a brilliant actor, he can also write and make you feel deeply.
Recommended. ( )
  Luli81 | Oct 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ethan Hawkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Let's do some livin', after we die." The Rolling Stones
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For Karuna
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I was driving a '69 Chevy Nova 370 four-barrel with mag wheels and a dual exhaust.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375718850, Paperback)

From the actor, director, and writer Ethan Hawke: a piercing novel of love, marriage, and renewal.

Jimmy is AWOL from the army, but—with characteristic fierceness and terror—he’s about to embark on the biggest commitment of his life. Christy is pregnant with Jimmy’s child, and she’s determined to head home, with or without Jimmy, to face up to her past and prepare for the future. Somehow, barreling across America from Albany to New Orleans to Ohio and Texas in a souped-up Chevy Nova, Christy and Jimmy are transformed from passionate but conflicted lovers into a young family on a magnificent journey.

Ash Wednesday is a novel of blazing emotion and remarkable grace, a tale that captures the intensity—the excitement, fear, and joy—of being on the threshold of the mysterious country of marriage and parenthood. Powerful, assured, large of heart, and punctuated by moments of tremendous humor, it represents, for Hawke the novelist, a major leap forward.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Jimmy, AWOL from the Army, heads across America from Albany to New Orleans, Ohio, and Texas in a souped-up Chevy with his pregnant girlfriend, Christy, transforming themselves from passionate lovers into a young family along the way.

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