Fun with Problems
By Robert Stone
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618386253, 208pp.)
Publication Date: January 2010
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Robert Stone demonstrates once again that he is an undisputed master of the contemporary short story. The pieces in this new volume vary greatly in length, but all share Stone’s signature blend of longing, violence, black humor, sex and drugs that has been his skeleton key to the human soul.
ROBERT STONE is the acclaimed author of seven novels and two story collections, including Dog Soldiers, winner of the National Book Award, and Bear and His Daughter, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His memoir, Prime Green, was published in 2006.
Whether you're vacationing for a week or a weekend, Alan Cheuse has a fiction recommendation to fit. Novels from Jennifer Egan and Laurence Gonzales for your weeklong escapes; a novella from Ann Beattie for those three-day getaways; and stories from Robert Stone for all you day-trippers. More at NPR.org
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"In the long form or the short, American fiction has no greater master than Robert Stone. These stories burn with his dark and incandescent magic."
-- Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising "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...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."
-- Publishers Weekly, starred "[Stone] mines the depravity of weirdos whose success resides in having not died by the end of the story...The stories are witty and diverse and are all unified by some element of brokenness...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."
-- Booklist "Once again, Robert Stone displays his tense mastery of narrative, inexplicably fine dialogue, and what is perhaps the most sublime sense of any living writer for beginnings and endings. He is, simply, one of our best."
--Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things "Stone's pared, precise lines take on the lyrical authority of morality tales...There's a dark humor at play here, the laughter of the rehab houses implied in the title. Few other writers could use a phrase like civic poetry so conversationally and have it be so cogent."
-- Library Journal "In this ironically titled collection, prize-winning novelist Robert Stone delivers insightful and at times wickedly funny portraits of troubled characters sowing the seeds of their own downfall."
-- Shelf Awareness "Vintage Stone. Enough said."
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred
"Elemental, a matter of life and death in the most literal sense...like all of Stone's most powerful writing, suggest that the answer is available to us only in fragments, if it is available at all."
-- Los Angeles Times "[A] killer collection...Stone is a master at picking apart messy lives in clean, precise language."
-- Oregonian "Stark and beautiful...one of the best pieces of fiction Stone has published...it's impossible not to be impressed by Stone's audacity, steel-eyed honesty, and cold and sometimes bizarre sense of humor...an enlightening [read] and hard to forget...[Stone's] an American master"
-- NPR.org "Robert Stone provides proof positive in his long-awaited story collection Fun With Problems that this master of the heart’s dark matterboozy onenight stands, sobering moments of grace, volcanic silences, shouted regretsremains in diabolically good form."
-- Elle "Stone is a master...No worter today is as grimly polished, as icily adept, and Hemingwayesquely lean and Hawthornely morally infused...impossible not to finish."
-- Dallas Morning News "If you aren't reading anything by Robert Stone then you better get with it."
-- Minx Society "Fraught with rough poetry."
-- People The prose is stylish, specific, savage and often darkly comic The writer pays his reader the deep compliment of refusing to simplify his creations. They are as flawed and sophisticated and complex and conflicted and naughty and tempted and contradictory and brutal and surprising as readers themselves Fun With Problems is a book for grown-ups, for people prepared to absorb the news of the world that it announces, for people both grateful and a little uneasy in finding a writer brave enough to be the bearer.”
-- The New York Times Book Review "[A] superb collection of short stories...Stone's prose style is exquisitely hard-edged."
-- The Providence Journal "...intense and finely carved...We follow Stone's characters all the way to the bottom because of the stark and marvelous skeins of sentences that carry us in these descents, sentences made of language as sharp and compelling as Stone's dramatic insights into the painful interior states of his characters...Stone illuminates his stories by the steady black light of his tragic sense of life, employing the best possible sentences for the job."
-- San Francisco Chronicle "A new book from Stone is so valuable: It's like a thunderstorm in the desert: highly enjoyable, but all too rare Stone's prose is, as always, lean and unobtrusively graceful."
-- Richmond Times-Dispatch "Excellent all the way around."
-- Robert Birnbaum "Quintessential Stone...deliciously dark."
-- USA Today