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The Perfect Fool Paperback – 2 Jul 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Paperback, 2 Jul 2001
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (2 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841153656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841153650
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,470,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


‘Set in a bizarre world where Iain Sinclair's fiction melds with a Coen Brothers’ screenplay…deliciously unpredictable.’ Observer

‘Lee’s characters bridge some kind of metaphysical Grand Canyon between London and Arizona. His writing is precise, weird, dark and wondrous. Comic moments appear at the most un-comic of moments. This book is mighty fine.’ Rich Hall

‘If Stewart Lee was fatter, shorter, uglier, posher and really, really, really boring, “The Perfect Fool” would be a sure-fire Whitbread contender.’ Steven Wells

‘It seems grossly unfair that, having already garnered fame, fortune and critical acclaim as a stand-up, half of a successful double act and, more recently, as a director, Stewart Lee should have produced such an ambitious, intricate and impressive novel at his first go.’ Observer

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

The Perfect Fool charts the progress of a collection of misfits, spread across the wide open spaces of Arizona and the narrow streets of South London, all unwittingly caught up in a quest for the Holy Grail.

Mr Lewis believes he was once an astronaut; Sid and Danny's Dire Straits covers band isn't exactly filling the pubs of Streatham; Tracy travels between Las Vegas and the Mexican border, fleeing the suspicion that she's a serial killer; Bob, a Native American clown, no longer finds anything funny; Luther, an acid casualty 60s rock star, has long since forgotten the most basic chord shapes; and Peter Rugg lost a cigarette down the back of a Portobello Road sofa thirty years ago and is still looking for it.

These seemingly unrelated individuals eventually collide in the deserts of the American South West, where they form an uneasy alliance. Stewart Lee's first novel combines an eclectic range of characters and cultures with an instinctive comic touch.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
About 150 pages into The Perfect Fool I finally "got it". That is, the theme that binds together the characters, the title and the Hopi story which punctuates the book. From that point on, I knew where we were going and the question we were going to answer. If you've screwed up really badly, or were just made wrong, how do you get over it?
Well, the answer is that it happens a bit like in a film. This is an extremely cinematic book, communicating mostly through its economically but effectively described visuals. It would look good on a screen; it looked good in my head. In some places I thought the Hollywood tone prompted the use of slightly clichéd settings, and on first impressions you might think you've met some of the characters before. But this is misleading. These people, even the villains, are deep and make sense.
This is a book that gathers momentum magnificently. It's basically unputdownable from about three quarters through. Like a good movie, you know when and where the payoff is coming but have no idea how a resolution can be found. I was sure there would be a sad ending. I was sure that any journey to destroy your past must be futile. Actually, the finish is surprising and wise.
This is definitely worth reading. I actually missed Lewis, Tracy, Luther, Sid and even Danny after they'd gone. I think that's a pretty high recommendation.
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Format: Paperback
BOOK REVIEW: By Wil Walker
As part of the tale, Stewart Lee informs (or possibly reminds) us of an ancient American Indian legend which describes "a beautiful ugly monster". It's a fitting description too, for a book which deals both with eternal high concepts and everyday base minutiae, blending them into a story-line which draws together Hollywood style landscapes and London high street grime.
World-wide secret organisations and conspiracies... plodding prog-rock bands... religion... nostalgia... ropy old sex videos... and many a mid-life crisis... just about every source of pub conversation for the mid-to-late 30's male is introduced into the story at one point or another.
The prose style in which he chooses to do this resembles some proto-stream of consciousness which actively unfolds or creates the tale as you watch, rather than that of merely relating a series of events which has happened already. The resulting effect is an almost beatnik manner of delivery, combined with an air of the ancient spoken story teller, at once adding gravitas and supplying a (deliberate ?) mocking tinge of underlying sarcasm.
This in itself won't surprise long-time Lee fans, who will doubtless delight in spotting many of his favourite lines, from 'skelingtons' to 'Look impressed' and a dozen other familiar catch-phases, subjects and situations. But there's little cause for the uninitiated to worry, as everything you need to know is explained along the way, without intruding on the gathering pace of the proceeding plot. In fact, even Mr Lee's customary self-evident smugness at being so well-read can be forgiven, as it all makes sense in the end. That is to say, there are no obvious loose ends left dangling in the ether.
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Format: Paperback
What a fantastic first novel ! I am well impressed. I found that I was easily drawn into the very odd lives of the bizarre characters and was compelled to stay with them throughout their peculiar, yet intensely real quests. From the guy who had to spend his life searching for the exact cigarette butt that had ruined his life to the woman who couldn't find a partner who could stay alive long enough to share her life, I was with them all the way. The dark, laugh out-loud humour and bleak, well observed reality throughout the book won me over and I eagerly await a 2nd novel. Stewart Lee has proven beyond any doubt that he has a brilliant talent as an author to go alongside his already established genius as a stand-up comedian and a theatre director.
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Format: Paperback
Well, what can I say? I bought this book a couple of months ago, for when I went on holiday. Being an immense fan of Lee, I found it incredibly hard to resist taking a look at it until then! But it was lucky that I did, because from the second I started reading I was unable to put it down. But this book is more than just an excellent way to pass an 8-hour plane journey. Oh yes.
It's a collection of stories, all concerning the grim underbelly of our world, and the people who inhabit it. Eventually, all their tales beautifully interwind into one. This book takes in the freemasons, burned-out 60's rock stars, women who can't keep a living boyfriend, and a motely crew of other no-hopers.
I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say this: It's an amazing book, and you'd have to be bl***y stupid to pass it up. Bl***y, bl***y stupid indeed.
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By A Customer on 11 July 2001
Format: Paperback
Against my mother's so-called better judgement, I spent the last of my remaining money on this, a book which I had awaited with baited breath, being a long-term fan of Stewart Lee. And thank goodness I did - I am delighted to report that The Perfect Fool lived up to my extremely high expectations.
The interesting and diverse characters of the book provide much entertainment, whilst the fast-paced interchanging of the scenes told in the most spectacular prose ensure that boredom does not set in for one split-second. An extraordinarily absorbing book, it's not that I couldn't put it down, just that I didn't want to. Stewart Lee's obvious intelligence and wit shines through in his writing, making for a delightful read.
If you are not already a huge fan of this man - you soon will be.
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