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Fool on the Hill

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,980 ratings  ·  244 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 ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 8th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Mike Vigorous
Feb 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Fagan
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The tone and quirkiness of Matt Ruff is as present as ever in this imaginative and heartwarming tale of love, adventure, and social hierarchy. When I first started this book I was working 14 to 16 hours a day. As such, I could not give it my full attention. Once that job ended, and my relocation to another State was complete, it was the first thing I dove back into. If you're lucky enough to have some solid "read time" in your life, you should fly thru this with a smile on your face and a drink ...more
Marina Furmanov
Apr 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Kurt
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Larry H
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
This is easily one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it three or four times and love it more each time. This is the story of a man looking for love, truth and dragons to slay, and as corny as that may sound, it's an amazing book.
Alan
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Alex
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Margaret Taylor
Apr 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Melanie
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Karli
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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!
Martin Pepe
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dena
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Gemma Alexander
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jeff
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Katelyn
Dec 15, 2010 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book, until half way through it got so ridiculous that I realized I was skimming whole pages and it just wasn't worth it anymore.
Mollie
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethereal, mystery
this book was recommended to me, and because it is peripherally about Cornell, I read it. It took me a very long time. This is not a book to pick up on an afternoon and read all the way through, it needs to be read a little at a time. I'm not even going to try to analyze or review it, I will only say that anyone who likes Tom Robbins will like this book. you'll get lost in it and you'll feel it and I think that's the mark of an unforgettable book.
Jessica
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I remember that I loved this book when I received it as a gift, when I thought of Ithaca and visiting my friend who went to Cornell. I remember that it was fun. Not a review really. Possible a bookmark of time and friendship. Another friend wrote a song for me with the same title when he saw the book.
Aki
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
More fun and less serious than Tom Robbins, but whimsical and strange in all the best ways.
Saroj
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Darcy
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
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,
...more
Jen
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Emma
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
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
...more
Roy DeRousse
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Tom
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read Matt Ruff's "Sewer Gas and Electric" before I read this book, but he wrote this one first. It's much more romantic and optimistic than "Sewer Gas and Electric."

The story focuses on Steven Titus George, a writer who has the ability to control the wind. It's a bit hard to explain in detail, but there are talking dogs and cats, an infinite number of monkeys typing at typewriters, a muse, roving bands of bohemians, sprites, anthropomorphized rats, and romance.

Definitely worth checking out.
Tellulah Darling
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Alex Jahnke
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My alltime favorite book.
Clint
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, 2018, fantasy
I like Matt Ruff. I first discovered him with Bad Monkeys and more recently with Lovecraft Country. I adored both of those books.

This book reads like a undergraduate’s Creative Writing Class fart. I had a somewhat loose rule before picking this up of “never read a book about an author in college”, this book made that a solid rule.

This was Ruff’s first novel. Don’t judge him based on this and for the love of all that holy, don’t make this the first book you read by him. He wrote this while
...more
Jerald Pinson
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely fantastic, and it’s all the more impressive once you find it that the author wrote it as his senior thesis project in College. I bought a copy of this book after reading Lovecraft Country by the same author, and I think I like this one even more.

While the plot is good, what made me really enjoy this book was the sheer force of storytelling behind it. Matt Ruff knows how to spin a good yarn with ease in a way that makes a voluminous book enrapturing from start to finish.
...more
Sarah Beaudette
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this on Christopher Moore's recommendation, and the tone / story, while completely different from Christopher Moore's books, is humorous and fantastic so you might enjoy this one if you enjoy Christopher Moore. You've got purebred vs. mongrel dogs playing out an allegory for racism while they search out spiritual answers, you've got a community of sprites battling an evil rat thing named Grub, and you've got a writer who's constantly being messed with by an ancient Greek storyteller ...more
Laura
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2017
Whew. I got through it.

I should lead in with the fact that I do like Ruff's work. I read other books by him and enjoyed them quite a lot, which is why I was interested to read this - what I understand to be his first novel. I must say, had this been my introduction to him, I likely wouldn't have read anything more. This is a tiring, slightly confusing, very trite book. Ruff has lumped together several stories which are essentially the same (star-crossed lovers, battles between fairies and rats,
...more
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Eclectic Readers: Fool on the Hill 6 21 Sep 19, 2012 07:33PM  

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1,191 followers
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 ...more
“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
“April, she had died. April could still be a very cold month in Ithaca, though it was certainly not the best month for dying of exposure. A depressed person would have a better bet walking along the edge of one of the gorges and “accidentally” falling in. Of course the man Jessop had done neither; hand-making his daughter’s tombstone had probably kept him too occupied to even consider suicide. Yes. That was it; that was the key. An act of creation in the face of loss.” 1 likes
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