Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Fun with Problems Hardcover – January 11, 2010
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Lonely and frustrated lives are explored in this new collection from the National Book Award–winning author of Dog Soldiers. Stone's evocative prose treads through the murky waters of dead dreams and waning hopes, bringing out the pathetic and nasty side of people warped by addiction, sex, violence and time. Characters are almost blind to redemption, like the alcoholic professor-artist of The Archer who lashes out at a world that wants to celebrate him, or the Silicon Valley executive in From the Lowlands who has built a mansion, only to discover that no matter how much of the world you conquer, there's always something hunting you. High Wire, a story about a Hollywood screenwriter's on again/off again affair and friendship with a bipolar actress, condenses the years between the death of Elvis Presley and the rise of Bill Clinton into a wrenching treatise on love, addiction, success and failure. Stone doesn't just let his wounded characters whimper in the corner. He turns them loose on a world hard enough to knock them down but indifferent enough to not care about them once they're gone. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
These stories are no feel-good tonic. Stone does not dabble in the heartwarming, but rather mines the depravity of weirdos whose success resides in having not died by the end of the story. In the entanglements Stone crafts, mere survival is no small feat. The stories are witty and diverse and are all unified by some element of brokenness. Whether it be alcoholic painter, drug-guzzling screenwriter, or small-town attorney, each protagonist remains despicable yet demands a certain sympathy. Everyone is broken, but nothing has yet to fall apart. In “High Wire,” a story about the unraveling of a Hollywood set, Stone writes “Suffering is illuminating, as they say, and in my pain I almost learned something about myself.” Each character comes closer and closer to truth, but heartbreakingly, never quite turns the corner. You know they are on the right track though and that makes suffering with these characters enjoyable. The epithet for Fun with Problems could read: folks who don’t fail all of the time. --Blair Parsons
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I love the subtly of Stone's writing, his use of words is utterly unique, his plot elements seem to hinge on the fanciful yet somehow he sets you back down in reality again. The ride is bumpy but still you feel safe.
Buy it if you like reading depressing subject matter that never really enlightens you.
Don't buy it if you want to feel any kind of connection to the characters in a book and see them take actions to correct their faults and problems.
The title of one story, "The Wine-Dark Sea", is quite intriguing with its reference, and the events are interesting if unlikely, but the dialogue is awkward and unnatural. At one point I found myself reading a paragraph aloud in different ways to try to make it sound plausible and just could not. Should characters be believable when they speak? I think so, at least in this sort of fiction. The same problem occurs throughout the book--I tried out some of the dialogue in "The Archer" and was unable to make it work.
Sometimes there are other problems. For instance, in the shortest story, "Honeymoon", the descriptions and dialogue are very realistic but the events do not seem plausible. Are we to take this seriously or is it a mere amusement, a message to a former spouse? Is the story an allegory, a parable of some sort? Is the whole point to make us wonder about these things?
These characters are mostly an unhappy bunch, to say the least. Some of them are very angry, or addicted, stupid, or lonely; some are simply immoral and some exhibit several of these characteristics. That should make them just like real people but no, they seem a little flat. We see what they are doing and, to some degree, the effects of their actions but it would be interesting to know their underlying motivations, why they do what they do, even if we can't hope to understand it. Is being an alcoholic enough to justify a character's actions or should an explanation of why he is alcoholic be offered?
On the whole, I was left wondering if these stories were truly intended for an audience or if they were written as a form of self-therapy, to be kept in a locked drawer, unpolished, with instructions for them to be destroyed upon the author's death. Reading Fun with Problems is like opening a new box of cereal to find it half-full because "contents may settle" and wondering, "Where is the rest of what I was supposed to get?"
Stick to this if you are a fan of Robert Stone. If you are just looking for a good book of short stories about people with issues, I would recommend Drift: Stories instead, simply because it is more interesting and, in the end, more enjoyable.
*** = It's OK
A copy of this book was provided for review through Amazon Vine
Most recent customer reviews
There's clearly a great depth of thought and subtlety to these characters and the stories.Read more