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Fool On The Hill

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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  2,672 ratings  ·  187 reviews
It is a literary event when a genuinely new fictional voice comes along. When that voice achieves its newness not through a certain formal facility but through the freshness of its vision, there is truly something to celebrate. Matt Ruff was only twenty-two when Fool on the Hill was first published, but with his novel he gave us a story that won over readers of every persu ...more
600 pages
Published 1991 by Hanser (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike Vigorous
A few of my thoughts on the author, having read only this, his debut effort:

Matt Ruff is smart. Not Nabokov smart. Not Pynchon smart. Not Dave Foster Wallace neurotic, tortuously smart. In fact, maybe he's not quite so smart after all.

Matt Ruff has read a few books. Tolkien. Who doesn't like Tolkien? Greek and Norse mythology is fun, too. And V.! I love V. Wait, though; besides the pun (Benny Profane and the V-necks, a college band) there's no substance to that reference. Nor most of the others
...more
Alex
Rich, fun, inventive, imaginative, borrowing from everyone but owing to no one. Matt Ruff is an amazingly frantic writer who can take a story in fifteen different directions at once, but somehow tie them all back together in the most creative of ways. Fool on the Hill takes place at Cornell University, but a Cornell that is just outside of our own. His vivid details will leave you walking the campus, looking around and trying to see the world that created on top of this one.
Kurt
Mar 23, 2012 Kurt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Cornell, most people who like fantasy
This is a contemporary fantasy story that isn't derivative of Tolkien, which in and of itself merits at least three stars. Beyond that quirk, though, this is a terrific story. I was introduced to Matt Ruff through The Mirage: A Novel, which I loved, and I wanted to try his first novel to see if I wanted to read more of his work. By the time I hit the halfway point in this fairy tale, I had already gone online to order two more of Ruff's novels. I love this book.

On a surface level, this is a roma
...more
Melanie
This book was first lent to me by a coworker and fellow Cornell alum who said, "I don't know quite how to describe this book. It's kind of out there, with fairies and talking dogs, but it's set at Cornell and somehow I just know you will like it."

She had me at talking dogs.

It's a treasure trove for fans of literature, mixing quest sagas, fairy tales, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Richard Adams, not to mention cinematic Westerns, epic battles, zombie-like attacks, and motorcycle mayhem
...more
Martin Pepe
Feb 19, 2013 Martin Pepe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who isn't a total cynic.
Recommended to Martin by: Stacy
Shelves: favorites, fiction
Matt Ruff does something extraordinary in his masterstroke of a first novel, Fool On A Hill. He breaks all literary conventions and none at the same time. I hesitate to use this comparison because the content and tone of the two men's work share no similarities, but Ruff wields total command of previous books and literary conventions the way Quentin Tarantino does with genre cinema. Tarantino doesn't copy and I don't think of his films as homages to the films that inspire him. He elevates, the w ...more
Alan
Aug 18, 2011 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Subcampus spelunkers
Recommended to Alan by: Subsequent work
I had a hard time even finding Fool on the Hill the first time I tried to do so, several years ago, spurred by the "Also by Matt Ruff" list in his brilliant later novel Set This House In Order (which you really should read—and I should reread, for that matter). I never saw it in bookstores, and eventually ended up snagging a copy to read through Inter-Library Loan. (ILL's a great service, by the way—you should check it out.)

Since then, though, Matt Ruff's first novel been reissued in trade paper
...more
Margaret Taylor
Is it ever a good idea for a magician to explain his tricks? When you find out the mechanics behind an illusion, it leaves you feeling disappointed when you realize there isn’t really any magic involved. Even worse to be shown how a hot dog is made. There are some things man was not meant to know. It should come as no surprise, then, that when Matt Ruff shows us the ugly workings of how a story is made in his novel Fool on the Hill, he gets mixed results.

That I felt that there was some wish-fulf
...more
Edithdoll
This book has been on my reading list, no joke -- since circa 1988. I could never find it via library loan or in a used bookstore but I had a gift card and it seems like it's been reissued. Ruff is a post-modern writer, using irony liberally and I previously read The Public Works Trilogy which was much more successful. There are a bunch of narratives here with the only connection really being Cornell University or Ithaca, NY. Supposed to be a modern day fairy tale incorporating different cliques ...more
Saroj
A friend recommended Fool on the Hill a year back. I finished this book today, a little over a week after starting it. What I have wondered from the moment I started to read it is why I delayed picking it up for so long.

As a Cornell alumna, I was drawn immediately to the book because it was set in Cornell, though a Cornell that was decidedly fictional, despite the presence of many familiar names and places (Risley, the Arts Quad, West Campus, and McGraw Tower are just a few that are mentioned).
...more
Jen
You know how Tim Gunn is always telling the people on Project Runway that they need to edit? Yea, Ruff could have used an editor on this one. It's about 100 pages too long, and there are at least one or two too many story lines.

I would like to be able to summarize what the book is about, but I just don't think that I can. Too much going on. There are sprites and animated rats and Bohemians and Frat Boys and writers and talking dogs and cats, and Calliope, and just too much!

I will point out tha
...more
Marina Furmanov
this book started off with so much potential. I actually thought that it may be similar to Jitterbug Perfume, the only book that intertwines stories like ingredients to a wonderful ramen broth. Well fool on the hill had no such seamless elegance. It was bulky.. wrong.. and at times I wish I was reading something more captivating. At no point was I in disbelief of what was happening.. some twists were indeed a bit too fantastical - but I wanted it. I craved Matt's imagination to engulf me with wa ...more
Emma
I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's so elaborate and exciting and trippy... But most of all, it's got quite a bit of deep philosophy in it. Moving, exciting, imaginative, intense.... It screams fun and games and Ruff delights the reader by flicking through half a century of literary allusions with an extra punch of magic to keep it enticing.

Each of the characters sizzle with their own style...From a mongrel dog who dreams of Heaven to a manx named Blackjack who is the definition of badass to a girl named af
...more
Gemma Alexander
Matt Ruff's first book. Reading it again now, it's not actually five star good, but I read it the summer after my freshman year in college and it has been one of my favorite books ever since. Ruff writes a lot like Tom Robbins, except a little lighter on the political and spiritual messages, and a little heavier on the three-dimensional characters you can actually care about. Oddly, the stories are also a little easier to believe in, despite the fact that he uses a lot of magical realism.
Tellulah Darling
My favourite re-imagining of a myth. St. George slays his dragon and wins his princess with the help of a meddler, lazy monkeys, magic and love.
Alex Jahnke
My alltime favorite book.
Max
I just happened to stumble across this tale at a library book sale for 50 cents. It certainly looked interesting enough to justify 2 quarters, so I decided to dig deep into my pocket and splurge a little.

It's an odd story that is hard to classify. It's part romantic comedy, part urban fantasy, part traditional fantasy, part mythology, part science fiction, part epic, and part pure nonsense. The lead character (if there is such a thing) would be S. T. George who is a full-time writer that is moon
...more
Alairic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy DeBottis
This review is based off the second time I read this book. The first time I read it I can honestly say I was swept away by all the different little story lines and odd characters. In fact I loved it. I gave it five stars. After my recent rereading it has lost some of its magic. While it's still fun and entertaining I can say that some of the side plots and characters feel unnecessary pushing the book to a length that it didn't need to be. Also, with so many characters, often with such out of the ...more
Laura
Well I had my doubts about this book at first. There were so many different stories occurring at once I was not even sure if this was an oddly organized collection of short stories or an actual entire novel. But once I got to Book Two, which is only a mere 90 pages in, all the essential characters started coming together and then it was a complete page-turner/roller-coaster leading up to the Ides of March. Ruff cranking in the suspense and build up the entire way while also directly coaxing the ...more
Katie Lambrix
Genre:
Fantasy
Comedy

Summary Blurb(s):
As adventurous as the quests of J.R.R. Tolkien and as contemporary as the zany entertainment of Tom Robbins, "Fool on the Hill" is certain to bring laughs and be remembered for a long time to come. The hero is S.T. George, a young writer-in-residence at Cornell, who is looking for love and dragons to slay. Soon George is caught up in an epic struggle of life and death, good and evil, magic and love.
(Good Reads)

The novel begins with the various characters, such
...more
Jeannette
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marnie
Fool On The Hill By Matt Ruff

4 Stars

Mr. Sunshine a retired god who is a storyteller has wrote the story of Cornell University from it's foundation. He's been sitting by watching as the story unfolds, checking in from time to time while taking a break from his other stories. The players are all there The Bohemians, who are saviors of the day in an unconventional way, the dogs who are fighting their own battles, the sprites who help out on the hill and the evil to beat all evil Rasferret The Grub.
...more
Marielle
To be honest, I'm surprised this book has so many positive reviews. It's definitely a first novel. Chaotic, brimming with literary references, and somewhat pretentious, I found myself skimming most of the book. The basic premise is that life is a play directed by God to amuse himself, and you're hit on the head with this over and over (yes, we've all considered that idea ourselves before without any help, thank-you-very-much).

Part of the reason I may have found it harder to read than most folks
...more
Scott
This was Ruff's debut novel, and the third of his four novels (up to this point) that I have read. From Publishers Weekly via Amazon.Com, here is part of their review as a description:

This exuberant first novel unfolds at Cornell University, the alma mater of its 22-year-old author, who has re-imagined his school as the center of a violent and funny modern-day fairy tale. Stephen Titus George is a young writer longing for true love and a great story to tell. With the mysterious appearance of Ca
...more
Matt
Enjoyed the first 200 pages. Then, it started to drag. It is chock filled of characters and story lines (a lot packed into 400 pages) but with little character development. I found myself not caring about what was going to happen at the end because anything could happen at any time rendering the journey somewhat moot. I don't mean to suggest that I wasn't entertained by some of the story or characters. Many of the characters were colorful in his/her/its one-dimensional rendering, if that makes a ...more
Shoshana
I just read this again. Not going to review it properly, except to say that this is like time number four for me and it is still one of my favorites, or, dare I say it, a soulmate book. Almost certainly not as objectively good as Sewer, Gas, and Electric, but still my favorite Ruff, maybe because it's fantasy, maybe because of Blackjack, maybe because of George on the hill with the wind and the kites, maybe just because I read it first, who knows, but there it is. A bit of a woman problem on and ...more
Step
This is a story about a story. Unfortunately, Matt Ruff got so caught up in the telling of how to tell a story, that he forgot about the story. (The previous two sentences made no sense, I realize this.) There is a lot of style here, so much style that once again, he forgot to tell a story. There is barely any substance. He ALMOST gets there twice, once in Ragnarok's story and once in Luther's, but everything else is him being convinced that quirky characters and magical realism pass for substan ...more
Kris
I love Matt Ruff - I've read all of his books and given 5 stars to three of the five Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, Bad Monkeys, and The Mirage, all awesome). This (his first book) is definitely not my favorite, and I'd probably recommend skipping it, but I can definitely see how it would appeal more to other people (people who went to Cornell, people who enjoy tiny fairies, people who like madcap random adventure books where everything ties together in the end?)
Kimberly Hanrahan-havern
This is one of those books that I wish had a sequel. Reading this book made me want to do my graduate work at Cornell University. It was funny, beautiful, hysterical and fabulously sarcastic. To this day I still look at the world through the characters' eyes. Especially cars with blue headlights.
Jae
OK, so it wasn't Set This House in Order but I liked it anyway. I just couldn't dislike a book where the antagonists are the Rubbermaid (a mannequin dressed in a vinyl S&M jumpsuit carrying a bowl of prophylactics) and a parade dragon that was created by a group of engineering students, and the protagonists are a mongrel dog and a writer who controls the wind. The story brims with literary references (many Shakespearean or mythological and nearly all lost on me), including characters named P ...more
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Eclectic Readers: Fool on the Hill 6 15 Sep 19, 2012 07:33PM  
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40577
I was born in New York City in 1965. I decided I wanted to be a fiction writer when I was five years old and spent my childhood and adolescence learning how to tell stories. At Cornell University I wrote what would become my first published novel, Fool on the Hill, as my senior thesis in Honors English. My professor Alison Lurie helped me find an agent, and within six months of my college graduati ...more
More about Matt Ruff...
Bad Monkeys Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls The Mirage Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy Mirage: Roman

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“George sat on his porch, and drank his Coke and made daydreams out of the rain. He wondered about the book he would write this year, and he wondered - not too desperately - whether love would find him at last and let him rest for a time. But he smiled all the while he was thinking about it, because at the core he was happy enough just to be alive and watching the storm, and this one thing made him special.” 8 likes
“Of course a certain number of scientists have to go mad, just to keep the tradition alive.” 0 likes
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