Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Review of Fun with Problems by Robert Stone

Fun with Problems
4 out of 5: The stories in Robert Stone's newest collection, aptly titled Fun with Problems, run the gamut from west coast to east coast, from the drug-addled dregs of society to the troubled lives of dot-com millionaires. Stone's characters are equally at home listening to Mahler and alluding to Shakespeare as they are prone to drug-induced misbehavior and drunken rages. Lucy, the impulsive, self-destructive protagonist of "High Wire," one of the strongest stories in the collection, could be speaking for all of Stone's characters when she describes herself as "in difficulty."

Stone's style is unrelentingly raw and testosterone-pumped. While potentially off-putting to some, I found Stone's writing to be refreshingly different from the norm, if occasionally overindulgent. Some of Stone's meltdown scenes—and there are many of them—stretch credulity (would the Secretary of Defense really lose his mind over a disparaging comment?). But, for the most part, Stone powerfully portrays humanity at its nadir. Certainly, these are not uplifting or hopeful stories. Rather, they seek to shed light on our darkest instincts and desires, and, on this point, they succeed magnificently.


mike mitchell said...

Yes, it is good stuff. I was mightily disappointed with Prime Green, could barely finish it. Dog Soldiers and Damascus Gate set the bar pretty high.

Zibilee said...

I haven't seen many short story collections that have gotten my attention recently, but this one sounds like it has promise. I really liked your review and think I might try to pick this book up and see if it works for me. Thanks!

Harvey said...

Did you see Michiko Kakutani's review in yesterday's NYT? She trashed the book and had the audacity to give away the plots of several of the stories. Pretty shoddy stuff for such a prominent reviewer.