THE HOTTEST STATE
Review by Sam North
First novels. A
lot of people are agin em, some are for em. Celebrity first
novels are usually just plain awful and written by someone else. One
usually hopes there wont be a second.
So when the actor Ethan Hawke writes a novel you are at first surprised,
then wary, but you read it because well Ethan has made some pretty surprising
choices in his acting career and you kind of suspect him of having some
integrity, so clearly lacking in some of his contemporaries. (Besides
which the mother of his child is Uma Thurman and so we know he has good
The Hottest State by Ethan Hawke is slight, shallow and self aware.
It is also very well poised, emotionally quite deep and very acutely
able at describing the utter foolishness of being 21 and hopelessly,
completely in love, astonishingly blind to the defects of the other
person and of how manipulative they can be. This novel should be read
by all 21 year olds contemplating falling in love. You are about to
enter the most self-centered, obsessive, egocentric world of the young
American female and be eaten alive.
Ethans protagonist William falls for a girl who wont sleep
with him. Theres always one, right? Naturally the more she wont
sleep with him, the more hes going to be in love with her and
the more it is going to hurt when it is all over. Ethan has the wisdom
to let us know that it is all over before it begins, but thats
OK, because he takes us on the painful rite of passage that is necessary
for young American males to gain perspective in the war between men
Someone once said that American males dont know anything about
emotion until they are 30. Well heres the thing, by thirty it
is too late. You have already been betrayed, if not by the woman you
loved, but then by yourself. You already burned out the soft-centre
of the human heart on the wrong woman well before you meet Miss Right
and any relationship formed after the age of 21 is a compromised situation
of wearing sheaths on barbed wire. This book, taking place over only
a few weeks, wonderfully charts the intensity and agonies engendered
by such passion and you know that some of this has to be autobiographical.
The Hottest State is about the moment before the disillusion sets in,
the moment of complete abandonment in a new relationship, the moment
when the dam of passion breaks free and all you want to do is have sex
all day all night with this woman, or this man you have found. Damn
the consequences. It is a warning too, to all those who think the best
relationships are begun in bars.
William is an actor on his way to Paris in a week to act in some straight
to video movie. She is an artist. (I seem to recall) It doesnt
matter. She is Sara, she seems to have amazing breasts, which matters
a lot to William, who is recovering from another relationship at this
time. Of course so is Sara and that one seems to have damaged her considerably.
But Sara has entrapped him, got him all steamed upand laid down strange
ground rules. They are all unexploded mines but he doesnt know
hes in danger until it is way too late. Humiliation can only only
Of course finding someone who loves her, faults and all, you would think
she would be nicer, but she doesnt get want to do that. Her unwillingness
to commit drives him crazy. She is snappish, waspish, shrewish, critical,
fey and deeply controlling. He notices only her breasts.
Now you can say that any man who only notices breasts gets what he deserves,
but I think it is her obvious lack of humour that will defeat this relationship.
This young man needed his heart breaking. Of course it destroys him.
Hes 21, pain is real when you are 21. Thats the only good
thing about being older and reading a book like this, you no longer
feel ANYTHING. This book reminds you why.
Love is difficult, writing about it is hard, as they say.
THE HOTTEST STATE by Ethan Hawke is a great little summer read, poignant,
funny, sophisticated and I genuinely look forward to another novel from
List Price: £6.99 Category Romance, 208 pages new edition (6 October,
Flamingo; ISBN: 0006550479
© Sam North