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Fun with Problems

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  341 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
In Fun with Problems, Robert Stone demonstrates once again that he is “one of our greatest living writers” (Los Angeles Times). The stories in this new collection share the signature blend of longing, violence, and black humor with which Stone illuminates the dark corners of the human soul. Entire lives are laid bare with remarkable precision, in captivating prose: a scree ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Mariner Books (first published 2010)
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Steve
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Strong collection by Stone. It lacks a power house story like Bear and His Daughter's "Under the Pitons." In fact there are probably at least three or so stories from Bear that I would rank higher than the offerings in Fun with Problems. That said, I do feel that Fun with Problems is more consistent in quality than the earlier collection. There are no real low points (well, unless you want to take into account Stone's universe of stoners, losers and betrayers), with things staying steady in the ...more
Cynthia
Dec 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Stone’s story collection is deep down funny in a very sad way. His characters are mostly high functioning intellectual or artists who have serious drinking, substance and/or mental issues who manage to get themselves into outrageous situations and just when mayhem is about to ensue the other characters reach deep and relieve the tension. Stone’s humor seemingly comes out of nowhere. You never see it coming and as a result you can’t avoid a belly laugh but these aren’t likeable people and ...more
David
Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the antics of bitter, narcissistic drunks.
The self-involved, self-destructive, tortured creative soul appears to have an unbounded appeal for certain authors. Apparently (sigh), Robert Stone is one of those authors. In this very slim collection of seven stories, he presents us with an assortment of characters, most of whom are living fucked-up lives. Some are interesting, some are utterly devoid of interest. As Stone is a competent writer (though he hardly merits the L.A. Times' hysterical acclamation as "one of our greatest living writ ...more
Tim Weed
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I found these stories absolutely brilliant. Unlike most contemporary short fiction, these aren't work to read. They grab hold and won't let go. One reads on with a sense of growing, horrified pleasure, and the increasing certainty that one is in the hands of a storytelling genius. Because of Stone's brilliance in stripping his characters bare, and the pitiless workings of Stone’s "mechanistic universe" (thanks for that, Tatjana Soli), the endings are completely satisfying - another reward simply ...more
Ken
Uneven Stone collection, but the final tale, "The Archer," is a keeper. Talk about FUN with PROBLEMS. Duffy is a cuckolded drunk, both artist and professor, who flees the winter of his New England discontent, surfaces at a Gulf Coast university where he is scheduled to give a speech, meets a Southern professor and his family at a restaurant, and goes into drunken fits over what he insists is faux crab meat. Hysterical, if sad.

Stone writes like a novelist, however, creating well-written tales tha
...more
Robert
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Stone was a writer who set a lot of store by the rough side of life. In some ways he wrote below himself. There was nothing ragged about his prose, but the characters he focused on and the places he put them in (geographically as well as situationally) definitely had a certain dysentery-like odor to them, resulting in a meal you enjoyed eating more than digesting.

Fun with Problems, his collection of stories published in 2010, features drinkers and dopers and women with hard luck and folks
...more
Daniel
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It both dismays and delights me to have discovered Robert Stone. Dismayed because he's apparently been around for awhile, and I'm only just now learning about him. Delighted because I'm just now learning about him.

This isn't a very long collection, but if these seven short stories are any indication, Stone doesn't need many words to strike the bull's eye of meaning. His lines are confident but also delicate with detail. He's one of the best wordsmiths I've stumbled across since Chang-Rae Lee or
...more
Adam Rust
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable. I have read Dog Soldiers, but this is of a different order. This is a book about what comes after hope. Stone puts it best in the last story, when, a character compares his seascape to that of an earlier artist:

"The good early stuff, all those wild whirling colored lights, was about the teeming overripe possibilities of the coming age...maybe his was about the exhaustion of those possibilities, the disappearance of that time, the great abridgment of the popular age. The ghost of a ce
...more
Tatjana Soli
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is part of my review that was posted over at The Millions:

The dilemma of the likable character. It’s good to have a character who we root for, who has flaws but works to overcome them. We are taught as fledgling writers that our characters need to be complex but also sympathetic. Even as a teacher, I’ve noted on student papers that a particular character wasn’t interesting enough to carry the story. But have we as a reading public become too soft, too politically correct, insisting that the
...more
Antonia
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I picked up this book because I remembered reading, in a New York Times review that it was a "book for grown-ups." It's that. And it's dark. I kept thinking that these are "men's stories," or "manly stories." They're tough, suspenseful, brutal. I sometimes had a visceral reaction brought on by a sense of menace aroused by this Stone's stunning writing. The characters are not likable, some downright distasteful, but are intellectually appealing, highly articulate, complicated, and with more self- ...more
Poppy
Jan 25, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tried-hated
Uh, sucked.
Jorn Barger
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd never even heard of this one, by one of my favorite authors, seven short stories, well-paced, wide-ranging, carefully crafted, often hilarious. (Stone's strength is making you believe he's lived a thousand lives, all deeper than yours.)
Dave Mills
In my old age, I need funny and light. Alas, Stone's "Fun With Problems" is sad and dark. Of the seven stories in this book, six were s**t. The seventh story, "The Archer," at least had a little depth. Sorry Robert Stone fans. You can have him.
Andrea
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Darkly humorous, bleak short stories. Stone’s characters are always all kinds of messed up, and that’s why I love them.
Rachael
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a big fan of short stories.
Katie Lynn
Very well written. As usual, I'm not a big fan of short stories. I would try more of this author's full length books, though.

"She was concerned with being there. And with whom to be. It occurred to me that perhaps she was going through life without, in a sense, knowing what she was doing. Or that she was not doing anything but forever being done. Waiting for a cue, a line, a vehicle, marks, blocking. Somewhere to stand and be whoever she might decide she was, even for a moment."

"To me, Lucy was
...more
Stewart
“Fun With Problems,” a 2010 book of seven short stories by American writer Robert Stone, has some winners and losers in its 195 pages.
I liked “Honeymoon,” a succinct, four-page story of a troubled man on a honeymoon with his second wife on a Caribbean island. With its precise detail, elliptical style, and imaginative turn of phrase (“And she was gone, disappeared like a fragrance in motion.”), the tale reminded me of one of the great early short stories from Ernest Hemingway.
“Charm City” is m
...more
Sterlingcindysu
The shorter the story, the better here! The longer ones were draggy, yeah I get it, the characters have problems that aren't easy to escape. Lots of problems, not so much fun.

(copied review) Robert Stone has displayed a facility for creating characters dangling at the end of their rope. His first collection of short fiction in 12 years offers an assortment of these archetypal burnt-out cases, struggling to make the best of the bad situations most have created for themselves. Typical of Stone's
...more
G.
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love short stories. They can be a great introduction to a writer who you've become curious about. Such is the case with Robert Stone, who passed away recently. Friend of Ken Kesey and Neal Cassidy, but not really "on the bus" although definitely of that mindset...and he was there, after all is said and done. He is probably most famous for his book "Dog Soldiers" about a journalist smuggling drugs out of Viet Nam during our little war there. Of course, it's much more than that. (You may not hav ...more
Tom
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grim tales of manipulative, self-destructive, self-deluding drunks and addicts, almost exhausting in relentless disasters. The prose is first-rate: taut plotting, characterization, and dialogue; insightful (both on the part of the narrator and the protagonists--they may be drunks, but they're not dumb); and often painfully realistic. Only the last story, "The Archer," relieves this tension--a sort of latter-day Flannery O'Connor, serving up hilarious, sarcastic misanthropy on a steaming platter. ...more
The Book Nazi
This is one of the few Short Story Books I have enjoyed.. I like the way Robert Stone portrays his aging Male protagonists, Despite their thick coats of bitterness they are filled with longing- secret romantics who pursue innappropriate women inappropriately! Stone also has jolly good time with foul language, When a wife tells her antisocial husband that they have an overnight guest, he blurts out `What The Shit!!'. Throughout this 300 page book Stone also implies that Bad things that happen can ...more
Anna
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost want to give this book a four star, but not quite. It's definitely more intriguing than your average three star literary fiction, but it's not quite as masterfully crafted a collection as, say, Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad.

What I liked about this short story collection was the exploration of nihilism that reappears in nearly all of the stories. There's something kind of freeing about a story collection where you have abandoned the idea that a character needs to be good, o
...more
Katherine
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"The fog was thicker than ever. There was a breeze spinning the mist but it seemed not to help, and the settled damp looked dirty to the Secretary. No poetry in this soiled cotton blanket" (80).
"It occurred to him that no matter how a man postponed it, he ended by progressively settling for less" (113).
"She ran her fingers down my bones like a harpist and we slept the sleep of the whacked until drizzly dawn" (131).
"This was the wonder-of-me stage of our courtship and it was genuinely sweet" (135
...more
Kasa Cotugno
Each story in this slim collection is a gem, worthy of standing on its own. In each instance, someone is headed on a collision course between their past and their present, which is usually the point of all short stories. But the difference in Stone's collection is his strength as a writer, his ability to distill an entire history in economical prose, holding the reader's attention and in many cases causing the breath to quicken, the pulse to race. There are many surprises, the most pervading fee ...more
patty
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow I'm surprised this book got on average of 3.09 ratings. Maybe people don't like short stories? Maybe people like happy ending (not what you're gonna get from this, but you would know that reading the book jacket)? There was only one sentence I felt was awkward and only because it was like I speak. So much of this book was lyrical and beautiful. I read it in one day, not that much to brag about, it's under 200 pages, but I loved it.
Honeymoon, High Wire and The Archer were my favorite, but wa
...more
Zweegas
The fifteen books from the NYT 100 notable books of 2010 list that I picked to add to my reading list:

Bound -- Antonya Nelson
Mr. Peanut -- Adam Ross
The Spot -- David Means
The Privileges -- Jonathan Dee
Fun With Problems -- Robert Stone
The Ask -- Sam Lipsyte
The Tenth Parallel -- Eliza Griswold
The Promise -- Jonathan Alter
Empire Of The Summer Moon -- S. C. Gwynne
Secret Historian -- Justin Spring
The Mind's Eye -- Oliver Sacks
Finishing The Hat -- Stephen Sondheim
The Honor Code -- Kwame Anthony Appiah
...more
Mike Ingram
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I continue to be somewhat beguiled by Robert Stone's short stories. Sometimes they go off on unexpected tangents that cause my interest to wane, like the latter part of "Charm City" or the middle of "The Wine-Dark Sea." But other times they're just great, like "From the Lowlands" and "High Wire" and "The Archer." Even in the less-focused stories, there's lots of great insight and humor, lots of lines I found myself reading again and thinking how I would write them down somewhere, if I was the ki ...more
Al Lloyd
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I should have known when Ray said these stories were "pretty rough" that this wouldn't exactly be holiday fare. This is about the most depressing group of stories I have read in a long time. There is not a decent character among them. Every man is a self -centered, drug using, bitter, jerk, to put it nicely. And the women aren't much better.
At times the stories reminded me of Raymond Carver but with no redeaming qualities and not nearly as good. I cannot think of anyone to whom I would recommend
...more
Jukka
Fun With Problems by Robert Stone

This is a short story collection. Great title don't you think? Reading this in particular for High Wire which i understand is quite similar to Stone's novel Children of Light.

In the past i've loved The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West, and hoping High Wire will connect.

Later: High Wire is very good, and depressing. There are some other good stories here, but others are rather mediocre.
Tina Hayes
Dec 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vine
'Fun With Problems' by Robert Stone is a very well written collection of the author's short stories. Most focus on darker notes, but each are entertaining reads. My favorites include Honeymoon, High Wire, and The Archer.

The haunting characters in High Wire continue to make me think of them, even though I finished reading Lucy and Tom's story days ago; their romance turned friendship lasted through decades and plenty of problems for both. The humor in The Archer really cracked me up.
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Goodreads Librari...: This (book) should probably be taken down. 2 42 Sep 29, 2011 03:00PM  
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ROBERT STONE was the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, Dog Soldiers (winner of the National Book Award), A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. His story collection, Bear and His Daughter, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his memoir, Prime Green, was published in 2006.
His work was typically characterized by psychological compl
...more
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