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Fool on the Hill

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,270 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
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, goo ...more
Paperback, 574 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Dtv (first published 1988)
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(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
Marina Furmanov
Apr 10, 2014 Marina Furmanov rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: enjoyed
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
Mar 20, 2009 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
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
Mar 07, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 liked it  ·  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
Jun 04, 2013 Dena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Bob Nolin
Jul 20, 2016 Bob Nolin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
One hundred pages in, and there are only vague signs of a plot. Mostly, this book seems to be just "stuff happening," and not particularly interesting stuff, either. A story (or Story, as Ruff would have it) holds a reader's interest by making her want to know what happens next. Usually that means either a strong plot drives the story, or an interest in the characters. Both are missing here, and so I'm done with this one. I had a feeling that this book, written while Ruff was an undergrad at Cor ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Karli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sep 22, 2012 Ingo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Nov 04, 2015 Darcy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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,
Martin Pepe
Feb 19, 2013 Martin Pepe rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 26, 2012 Saroj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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).
Apr 30, 2010 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: former-bees
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
Roy DeRousse
I loved Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, so I thought that I'd give this book a try. The writing style and story structure is completely different in this book. That alone is not necessarily bad, of course. The book starts out with a bunch of crazy characters and situations. I was intrigued.

But by the time I reached page 162 out of 396, I finally lost interest and stopped reading. There had been some interesting story fragments and a "slice of life" feel, but but there was still no overriding se
Jul 27, 2009 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gerri Leen
It's not that I disliked this book. But after 100 pages of hard going (hard going in this case being a book that I find myself actively avoiding picking up--"Oh look, the new ET is here. Oh look, I can read this catalog instead..."), I quit because I didn't like it enough to continue. This should have been right up my alley. It read a bit like Jitterbug Perfume, which is one of my favorite books. And I adore Ruff's Set This House in Order. But, just as Jitterbug Perfume is the only Tom Robbins ...more
Aug 05, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-f
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
Feb 17, 2015 Rob Trevino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2008 Gemma Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 23, 2014 TheLongWait rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Carol Waters
Meh. I liked the song better.

If it's an analogy, I don't want to work this hard. I think Rubbermaid shareholders should be pissed. I'm also saddened that cats have so little on their minds. Dogs I could understand, but not cats.

Felt like Tom Robbins lite.
Tellulah Darling
Mar 21, 2012 Tellulah Darling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-adore
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.
May 15, 2016 Tanis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Jahnke
Jan 20, 2009 Alex Jahnke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My alltime favorite book.
Mar 15, 2014 Max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
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
Aus irgendeinem Grund hat sich das Lesen bei mir lange hingezogen. Dabei ist die Geschichte schön strukturiert, vielleicht mitunter etwas zu verworren, aber gerade in ihren sorgfältig eingefädelten und -geworfenen mythologischen Parallelen immer amüsant und meistens erkennbar durchdacht. Die Masse an Hauptcharakteren und damit an Erzählsträngen ist allerdings auf Dauer etwas ermüdend, vor allem wenn im letzten Drittel alle Stränge auf das Finale zugesteuert werden müssen. Dabei fällt auch unange ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Janina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2010 Alairic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
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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.” 9 likes
“Of course a certain number of scientists have to go mad, just to keep the tradition alive.” 0 likes
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