Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fool on the Hill” as Want to Read:
Fool on the Hill
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fool on the Hill

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  3,005 ratings  ·  197 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 8th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1988)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fool on the Hill, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Fool on the Hill

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoLirael by Garth Nix
Books About Librarians
80th out of 229 books — 422 voters
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert RankinThe Human Stain by Philip RothWhite Noise by Don DeLilloThe Dance Of The Voodoo Handbag by Robert RankinMagic America by C.E. Medford
There Ought to be a Band
195th out of 615 books — 123 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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.
Mar 23, 2012 Kurt rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Aug 18, 2011 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
I described it to my son, as he asked what my book was about - "There is this old, eternal man who is writing a story which brings the people, animals and sprites of Cornell together to fight an epic battle with words, fairy tales,swords and magic" Cool, he said.

Yep - it's a good one!
Ein Autor mit viel Phantasie und die Geschichte ist durchaus "positiv anders". Aber das Buch hat Längen, es fehlt lange an Spannung, die einen zum Weiterlesen treibt. Und schon wieder der alte Kritikpunkt - das Schreiben selbst ist Thema im Buch. So bleiben nur 3 Strerne...
Martin Pepe
Feb 19, 2013 Martin Pepe rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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).
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
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
This review originally appeared in Dragon Magazine #143 (March 1989).

There are no fantasy gamers in Fool on the Hill, though you might expect them in a novel set on a university campus. At Matt Ruff's shadow version of Cornell University, they'd be redundant -- the whole campus borders Faerie, and is populated by Shakespearean sprites, canine philosophers, ring-wielding Tolkien lovers, benign crusaders for various causes, and a storyteller in search of love.

Instead, there are stories within sto
Rob Trevino
A fun college-based fantasy that uses the energy of a first-time writer to great effect. He throws everything against the wall and keeps it fast moving (and generally moving) enough for it to work. I'd give it to any high school or college student in a second that doesn't completely roll their eyes at the fantastical elements (and maybe even if they do).

Not to get all Andy Bernard on this review, but there is a particular nostalgic interest I feel I have to admit because I went to Cornell where
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.
A modern take on a classic fable, with multiple characters and plots resolving themselves. Sometimes a good story that is well told is all we need. I read a lot of post modern, non linear Literature, so reading Ruff's debut was a bit of a breath of fresh air. No politics. No super fancy prose. No hidden meanings. No research necessary. Just a well written STORY with believable characters in an unbelievable setting. A bunch of fun.
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.
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
Hands down the laziest written book I have ever read. By the end I realized I could not care less what happened and just wanted to finish it because I was almost done.

I cringed during the opening chapter in which we learn the protagonist is a writer and god is a writer and writers are the only ones with immortality and.. yeah the reek of self-indulgence was very strong. But it picked up over the next few chapters and I got into it.

Then the laziness kicks in and the three plots (sprites, humans,
This book is one of the stranger books I've read which is usually something I enjoy a lot. It's the story of a god directing life and a storyteller writing a story and people falling in love and the life of cats and dogs and sprites and fairies and of course Bohemians and fraternities and and and. A few too many ands for my liking as I feel like there were too many characters and too many separate storylines mixed together unsuccessfully. Usually, I love to skip from story to story and have ever ...more
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
Jul 22, 2010 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
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

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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Eclectic Readers: Fool on the Hill 6 17 Sep 19, 2012 07:33PM  
  • Just a Couple of Days
  • Pest Control
  • Zod Wallop
  • HELP!  A Bear is Eating Me!
  • Night of the Avenging Blowfish: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat
  • Soloalbum
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
  • A Wild Ride Through the Night
  • First Contact-Or, It's Later Than You Think (Parrot Sketch Excluded)
  • Neue Vahr Süd
  • Das Ewige Leben (Brenner, #6)
  • The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer
  • Death: A Life
  • Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed
  • The Muse of Edouard Manet
  • The Enterprise of Death
  • Through a Brazen Mirror
  • Foop!
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...

Share This Book

“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.” 9 likes
“Of course a certain number of scientists have to go mad, just to keep the tradition alive.” 0 likes
More quotes…