FILE - Ethan Hawke poses for a portrait during the 2020 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 13, 2020. In an audiobook commissioned by the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and airing online Oct. 19-29 Hawke inhabits the aging Rev. John Ames of Marilynne Robinson's acclaimed novel “Gilead.” (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Ethan Hawke tapes audio edition of acclaimed novel ‘Gilead’

Ethan Hawke tapes audio edition of acclaimed novel ‘Gilead’

NEW YORK — When she learned that Ethan Hawke was working on a special audio edition of her acclaimed novel “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson’s response was to get a better idea of who he was.

“I can’t say I was familiar with his voice,” Robinson said of the four-time Oscar nominee whose films include “Before Sunrise,” “Reality Bites” and “Boyhood.” But when Robinson watched Hawke star as a troubled priest in Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” she felt confident he could inhabit the life of an aging Iowa minister in the 1950s, one whom Robinson describes as “a man deep in conversation with himself.”

“He (Hawke) speaks in a sort of American way that is well within the range of what I understand my character to be speaking,” she said.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, ”Gilead” is the first of four Robinson novels set in a rural Iowa community in the 1950s. It’s narrated by the dying Rev. John Ames, a Congregationalist pastor who reflects on his family history and the suffering and transcendence he has known in this “poor perishable world.” The book’s many admirers include former President Barack Obama, who has spoken of reading “Gilead” while campaigning in Iowa.

Hawke has recorded an abridged narrative of “Gilead” that was commissioned by Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y and can he heard Oct. 19-29 via www.92y.org/gilead. Bernard Schwartz, who directs the Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, said in a statement that he thought Hawke was an ideal narrator.

“In ‘Gilead,’ the Reverend John Ames contemplates ‘grace as a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials,’” he said. “I read that and think of Ethan Hawke’s voice. ‘Gilead’ is a great American novel, and Ethan Hawke is a great American actor.”

In a recent email, Hawke remembered his first encounter with Robinson, when she read from “Gilead” at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, as a “near Holy experience.”

“Her humility as a person, and the depth of her writing, was inspiring — so I started reading,” he explained.

Hawke’s roles have ranged from the born skeptics of “Reality Bites” and “Before Sunrise” to the violently committed John Brown, the 19th century abolitionist whom he plays in the Showtime adaptation of James McBride’s prize-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird.” The Rev. Ames, as much seeker in his own way as some of Hawke’s more secular characters, is in his “wheelhouse,” the actor says.

“If anyone has the Chutzpah to make it a film, I hope they cast me.”

Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

Books

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

Two inmates at Bowden Institution have tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press File Photo)
2 Bowden inmates test positive for COVID-19

A pair of inmates at Bowden Institution have tested positive for COVID-19.… Continue reading

Salons and barbershops are able to open on Monday, the Government of Alberta announced this week. (Photo courtesy Pixabay)
Red Deer salon owner “relieved” business can re-open next week

The owner of a Red Deer salon says she’s “definitely relieved” her… Continue reading

Red Deer Valhalla Pure Outfitters owner Darren Schaedeli has seen a significant increase in those looking to tackle winter experiences. Some are trying their hand at "hot tent camping" as he did in the West Country several weeks ago.
Photo contributed
Central Albertans enjoying the great outdoors this winter

Stir crazy and beach-deprived central Albertans are embracing the great outdoors this… Continue reading

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Updated: Jason Kenney kicks Lesser Slave Lake MLA out of caucus

Pat Rehn will not be permitted to run for UCP nominations

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

OTTAWA — British Columbia’s decision to seek legal advice on limiting travel… Continue reading

FILE - Joanne Rogers stands in front of a giant Mister Rogers Forever Stamp following the first-day-of-issue dedication in Pittsburgh on March 23, 2018. Rogers, the widow of Fred Rogers, the gentle TV host who entertained and educated generations of preschoolers on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” has died. She was 92. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Joanne Rogers, widow of TV’s famed Mister Rogers, dies at 92

Joanne Rogers, an an accomplished concert pianist who celebrated and protected the… Continue reading

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
In mandate letter, PM tells Freeland to spend on temporary measures until crisis ends

OTTAWA — Emergency spending to deal with the COVID-19 crisis must not… Continue reading

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during an event at The Queen theater, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Biden’s aid plan could revamp economy, prompt GOP resistance

BALTIMORE — The $1.9 trillion rescue plan unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Cogeco reports first-quarter profit and revenue up from year ago mark

Cogeco Inc. reported its first-quarter profit rose compared with a year ago… Continue reading

Regina Pats defenceman Libor Hajek (3) fights for control of the puck with WHL Swift Current Broncos forward Tanner Nagel (25) during third period Memorial Cup action in Regina on Wednesday, May, 23, 2018. Western Hockey League teams need at least 50 per cent of their fans in their arenas next season in order to operate, according to the league commissioner. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Saskatchewan gives $4M to junior hockey after extending ban on team sports

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government is giving $4 million to help junior… Continue reading

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief medical officer of health says British Columbia’s decision… Continue reading

Most Read