cover image Fool on the Hill

Fool on the Hill

Matt Ruff. Atlantic Monthly Press, $0 (396pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-243-7

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 Calliope, a sorceress who can transform herself into anyone's vision of female perfection, both of his dreams begin to come true. Ruff shapes an adventure for his protagonist that includes everything from poisoned apples to winged dragons, all set on a campus where there isn't a professor in sight and where the actions of dogs, cats and invisible sprites are as meaningful as those of the students. On its way to a certain happy ending, the story falls short of its own ambitionsit's vastly overpopulated with extraneous characters (human and otherwise), and packed with self-conscious, punning references to everyone from Beckett to A. A. Milne. Too many of Ruff's narrative devices exist only to spotlight the author's cleverness, but at its best, his debut brims iwth good humor and imagination. (October)