It was a very good book, and very timely for me. It started a bit slow, was a little heavy-handed at times, and not much happened, but it was still good: characters with real thoughts, conversations, and arguments; funky, real situations; and real commentary that came through the dialog–in fact, dialog was king in this novel, some of the best dialog I’ve ever read, and I guess you could expect that from an actor/author. I already liked and respected Ethan Hawke, he is kind of one of the defining actors of my generation, two of his movies (Gattaca and Great Expectations) are two of my favs, but now I am really intrigued by this artist.
I read this book almost as fast as I read a Palahniuk novel, and that’s saying a whole lot, because for me so far no one has come close to even touching Palahniuk.
Dave: Your novels certainly aren’t religious novels by any means, but in each one people are struggling with some pretty big questions, particularly in Ash Wednesday.
Hawke: I’ve noticed that schism too. You might go read the Dhammapada or Thomas Merton, some kind of religious text, but the only people talking about religion are religious gurus. Then there’s the rest of our life, all the stuff we’re really interested in: having sex, music, going to coffee shops, going to the movies, whatever it is that people are doing. We compartmentalize our lives. If something really bad happens, for a window of time you really start asking the big questions. Then you get caught up in your daily life again.
But I really believe that people think about this kind of stuff. There’s a line that Jimmy has in the first chapter: “If somebody asks me if I believe in God, I shake my head like I couldn’t give a shit, but the truth is, I do. I just don’t know what to do about it.” That’s kind of how I felt for years. I’ve always believed I was born for a reason, and you were born for a reason, that life has meaning, but I couldn’t even begin thinking about what that point might be, why or in what context, in what relation to things.
…If you start talking about religion you feel like you should be smarter than you are. And we’ve all been so inundated with freaky zealots that it makes us uncomfortable, so as soon as you mention the word God half the people you’re talking to drop out; the other half come up with too much information. But I’m interested in it, and it’s one of the things I wanted to do with Jimmy’s voice, to create this kind of oddball guy who’s going to talk to you about religion - but who’s not going to know anything about it.
I didn’t want to do any moralizing and I didn’t have an agenda.
I don’t feel like you can handle criticism in the right way unless you are sure of what you are trying to get across. If you are sure of what you want to get across, then people can tell you how you are succeeding or not. If you are not, you can’t start writing the book so that it makes your best friend happy. So that he likes it more.
Ethan Hawke’s Author’s Desktop “details the songs he envisioned as the soundtrack to the novel, with links to read the lyrics and reviews of the music and to play and listen to the songs yourself.”