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Stone Arabia

A Novel
Spiotta, Dana (Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Stone Arabia
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Stone Arabia, Dana Spiotta's moving and intrepid third novel, is about family, obsession, memory, and the urge to create-in isolation, at the margins of our winner-take-all culture. In the sibling relationship, "there are no first impressions, no seductions, no getting to know each other," says Denise Kranis. For her and her brother, Nik, now in their forties, no relationship is more significant. They grew up in Los Angeles in the late seventies and early eighties. Nik was always the artist, always wrote music, always had a band. Now he makes his art in private, obsessively documenting the work, but never testing it in the world. Denise remains Nik's most passionate and acute audience, sometimes his only audience. She is also her family's first defense against the world's fragility. Friends die, their mother's memory and mind unravel, and the news of global catastrophe and individual tragedy haunts Denise. When her daughter, Ada, decides to make a film about Nik, everyone's vulnerabilities seem to escalate. Dana Spiotta has established herself as a "singularly powerful and provocative writer" ( The Boston Globe ) whose work is fiercely original. Stone Arabia -riveting, unnerving, and strangely beautiful-reexamines what it means to be an artist and redefines the ties that bind.
Authors: Spiotta, Dana, 1966-
Title: Stone Arabia
a novel
Publisher: New York : Scribner, c2011
Awards & Distinctions: National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, 2011 finalist
Local Note: PromptCat
CM (07/11)
ISBN: 1451617968
9781451617979
9781451617962
Branch Call Number: F Spi
Statement of Responsibility: Dana Spiotta
Subject Headings: Self-realization Fiction Brothers and sisters Fiction Artists Fiction
Genre/Form: Coming of age novel
Topical Term: Self-realization
Brothers and sisters
Artists
LCCN: 2011017816
MARC Display»

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The story of 40-something siblings who were raised during the 70s L.A. music scene who now face questions of memory, family, dependence, and what becomes of an artist that goes undiscovered by the world.


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Middle-aged Denise is afraid that she, like her mother, is starting to lose her memory. Her older brother, Nik, has no such concern, since he creates his own past as he goes. In reality, thirty-odd years ago, Nik had near miss with rock and roll fame. Since then, he has kept an elaborate work called The Chronicles, where he documents a fictional career of fame and riches. It's complete with CDs that Nik has recorded either by himself or with an imaginary band, complete with imaginary band-mates with their own personalities and biographies. The Chronicle has liner notes, reviews, fan letters, and interviews, all of it composed and painstakingly produced by Nik. Things begin to unravel for him, though, when Denise's adult daughter begins work on a documentary of Nik and The Chronicles.

Just as Nik lives through his fictional documentation of himself and spends much less time and effort in the world that you and I share, so Denise spends vast amounts of time online, getting vicarious emotional experiences from tragedies that she seeks out on the Internet. It's a sad meditation on how old habits inform and constrict people's emotional life. It would probably be quite depressing if Spiotta wasn't such a great writer. She can take very mundane things and fill them with a tremendous amount of meaning. Here is an example where Denise is talking with her daughter Ada over a glass of wine.

Ada took a sip of her pink wine. She took a drag off her cigarette. I know this is an awful thing to say about your kid, but she looked good with a cigarette. I thought this, even knowing how my brother fell into long hawking fits every morning. And coughing fits throughout the day. Bronchitis every winter. But when a young person smokes, it is different. It just underlines their excess life. It looks appealing and reminds you they feel as if they have life to spare. They have such luxury of time that they can flirt with lethal addictions. They have plenty of time to heal and repair later. A young woman like Ada would eventually discard these things. When you are old, like Nik, when it is a very old habit, smoking looks mostly like a reckless delusion. But for Ada it was an abundance, a kind of fun, a kick off of a shoe, a sip of pink champagne.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Dec 15, 2011
  • tegan rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I had such hope for this book as it had been compared in the New Yorker to 'Freedom' and 'The Goon Squad'. I liked both of these books, but this book was a bit of a flop. The voice of the book is strange. And the plot is annoying...it is all about a sister talking about her brothers music career and his fake scrapbooking. I do not recommend this.

Oct 14, 2011
  • burleighsmith rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Wonderful tale of a sister’s love for her rock-obsessed brother. The brother could-of-been-a rock art star (think Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth), but principles—or something—got in the way, and instead, he created his mythology and art for an audience of only his immediate few fans. The voice we hear telling us this tale is that of his devoted sister. Her predicament is arresting. Being in the shadows of wanna be rock star guys who can’t grow up, she doesn’t grow up. Although being a member of the responsible gender, she does carry her share of responsibilities—making up for her brother. If you were born late ‘50s or so and were caught in the glow of the nihilist punk rock scene, this imaginative fabrication should delight you. I liked Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, but would recommend this first. Dan Spiotta is less about spinning a clever story and more about getting to the soul of these lost aging rockers.

Oct 10, 2011
  • kcs76 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A novel about memory, obsession, delusion, and reality. It's well written, the characters are interesting (if not compelling), but somehow the whole thing feels like an exercise by the star pupil in an advanced fiction writing workshop. I guess there is such a thing as too much craft.

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