He blew them all away.
"Fool on the Hill" came out lo these many years ago now. But it is still a benchmark for me, and I will go back to it, again and again, re-reading the whole thing, or picking out favourite fabulous moments to re-visit - Ruff is unrivalled at writing mayhem and "Fool" has two of my absolute favourite scenes in it. The first is the chaos on the streets of a sleepy small town when it plays host to an explosive critical mass of potential energy involving a routine-ruled sheriff whose day is utterly ruined by the whole series of events, a rogue motorcycle gang (whose seven members are named after Snow White's seven dwarves with the notable substitution of "Sleazy" for "Sneezy"), a trio of stupid hunters, a pair of bear cubs (and their momma), a quartet of nuns riding about in a limo and bestowing blessings out of the window of said car, and a motley crew known as the Bohemians whose descriptions in the scene are almost guaranteed never to leave your head again. I just read that particular scene out loud to rdeck this morning, and I cannot get through it without cracking up at least twice. WHY hasn't somebody made a movie of this book? It would be worth going to see for this scene alone... The second is when several of the masterfully parallel narratives in this books all come together in a kitchen with a Swedish chef who can see fairies (I am serious. I swear I am. If you haven't read this book, go buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy of it. I am SERIOUS.)
The thing that seriously got my goat back when I first read this novel is the simple fact that the author was far too fricking young to have written this kind of masterpiece. Ruff is the kind of writer whom other writers read and then go out and find a friendly brick wall to bang their head against for an hour because they know that they will nevereverevereverEVER write like this in their lifetimes.
Did I mention that you need to go out and get this book...?
But the story doesn't end there. I've followed Matt Ruff's career since "Fool", and I've seen his writing get *even better*. When I came across THIS book
I knew that I was seeing a young writer come into the fullness of his gift. This is a book that almost defies description, and it is only a towering talent that can do right by it, and make it look almost effortless. It will suck you in and swallow you whole.
I've had the pleasure, in the intervening years, to have met Matt Ruff in person, and we've even shared an occasional meal at a convention or two along the way. He has a blog right here on LJ and he occasionally wanders past my own (are your ears burning yet, matt_ruff?) and he might be likely to pop in here and scuff his shoe on the ground and get all bashful - but take it from me, take it from a writer who knows another writer when I trip over one, this guy is absolutely fabulous, worth your attention, worth your last dollar. If you haven't discovered him yet, I suggest you run out and do so. If you know his work already, I give you a high five salute. Go thou out and tell your friends.
In the meantime, now that I've got "Fool on the Hill" out of the shelf... I might go back and re-read the whole thing. Again. It's been too long; I need to be amazed, amused and awed all over again.