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Stone Arabia: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Dana Spiotta
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Kindle Price: $10.99
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Spiotta's extraordinary new novel is an inspired consideration of sibling devotion, Southern California, and fame. Nik Worth is a reclusive musician in his late 40s at the tail end of his "blasé and phlegmatic glamour," who once almost made it big. But as he careens toward 50, he begins to retreat into a private world, living in his tiny "hermitage" apartment, recording a multivolume series called the Ontology of Worth, and assembling the Chronicles, a scrapbooked alternate history of his career, complete with fake news clippings, doctored photographs, and reviews. Nik's primary links to the world, and biggest fans, are his devoted younger sister, Denise, and to a lesser extent, her daughter, Ada. But when Ada begins a documentary probing her uncle's "whole constructed lifeology thingy" just as the inner logic of Nik's "chronicled" life unspools, Nik and Denise are plunged into a crisis. With her novel's clever structure, jaundiced affection for Los Angeles, and diamond-honed prose, Spiotta (National Book Award finalist for Eat the Document) delivers one of the most moving and original portraits of a sibling relationship in recent fiction. (July)


"Dana Spiotta's Stone Arabia is a dreamlike meditation on fame and success, technology and the imagination. The novel beautifully manifests Ms. Spiotta's gift for transforming her keen cultural intelligence into haunting, evocative prose."—Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad

“Added to the brilliant glitter of Ms. Spiotta’s earlier something deeper and sadder: not just alienation, but a hard-won awareness of mortality and passing time... both a clever meditation on the feedback loop between life and art, and a moving portrait of a brother and sister, whose wild youth on the margins of the rock scene has given way to the disillusionments and vexations of middle age.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Is there a more electrifying novelist working than Dana Spiotta?...[Stone Arabia] makes for a sharp character study: A portrait of the artist as middle-aged never-was. Yet Spiotta’s genius is to recognize that Nik’s journey is representative not just for his sister or his mother but for every one of us.”—David Ulin, LA Times

“I read Stone Arabia avidly and with awe. The language of it, the whole Gnostic hipness of it is absolutely riveting. It comes together in the most artful, surprising, insistent, satisfying way. Dana Spiotta is a major, unnervingly intelligent writer.”—Joy Williams, author of The Quick and the Dead

“Fascinating...resonant...what’s most remarkable about Stone Arabia is the way Spiotta explores such broad, endemic social ills in the small, peculiar lives of these sad siblings. Her reflections on the precarious nature of modern life are witty until they’re really unsettling.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Outstanding...Male American writers have talked about the incursion of the real into territory previously held by the novelist’s capacity for invention; but who before Spiotta has written about reality’s threat not to imagination but to memory itself?...An essential American writer.”—Jonathan Dee, Harper’s Magazine

“Transfixing...It’s as though Nabokov had written a rock novel.”—Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

“Evocative, mysterious, incongruously poetic…gritty, intelligent, mordent, and deeply sad...Spiotta has created, in Stone Arabia, a work of visceral honesty and real beauty.”—Kate Christensen, The New York Times Book Review

“Dana Spiotta’s stunning, virtuoso novel Stone Arabia plays out the A and B sides of a sibling bond...”—Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“A smart, subtle, moving story about the complicated business of knowing the people you love...a wild, sorrowful, rambling, deeply subjective, incandescently beautiful document.”—Matthew Sharpe, Bookforum

Product Details

  • File Size: 2941 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B006Z32DOC
  • Publisher: Scribner (July 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G8QTG6
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,934 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Altered Reality July 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Following up her bestselling "Eat The Document," Dana Spiotta moves forward in her writing and sets her eyes on a brother / sister relationship that defies expectation.

Mining similar territory as Don Delillo's early novels - such as the influence of media in today's culture, the strangeness of human interaction, and the alterable nature of what we perceive as "reality" - it's no wonder why Delillo himself is a fan of Spiotta, and has championed her work since her debut novel "Lightning Fields."

She finds the weird and startling beauty of what we know as everyday life. Dissecting with surgical precision until the disassembled parts are entirely familiar yet wholly unrecognizable.

The two siblings in the novel have a somewhat distant and yet tender relationship. The brother, Nik, has created an alternate reality in which he is a once famous and now reclusive rock star. His sister's life is slowly unravelling around her as she begins to fear that her brother may have painful plans for his future.

The way this story is told is what makes the novel so compulsive. Several reviews have compared it to Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From The Goon Squad," and while Egan is certainly talented, Spiotta writes circles around her. Just reading some of the passages about 24 hour cable news channels rang so true it was astonishing.

This is a highly recommended book for fans of Don Delillo, Paul Auster, Samuel Beckett, and any other author that makes you fall asleep thinking about the grandness of life in all it's exquisitely painful and beautiful moments.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we read novels/fiction... August 13, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Someone calling this "an average read" was the ultimate incentive to get me to write this, though now, thinking guiltily, I should have done this earlier.

This is NOT an average read. This is why one reads fiction. Spiotta's insight into the deepest part of her character's is why one should be thankful fiction is still being written with this much truth.

This is not an easy story, or one that one should hope to have neat and satisfying resolution. This is profound storytelling that deserves slow reading, partially because the writing is so beautiful, but more because it has lessons for those who are willing to stay and listen.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An average read July 25, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I initially had a hard time writing a review for this book, so I took some time to think about it for a few days to determine whether I got more or less satisfied with it after some time passed. Stone Arabia is a unique tale of reality vs. illusion, but at times it seemed foiled by its own conceit.

This book is the tale of Nik Worth, a musician and bartender who has created the "Chronicles" of his alter ego-- a fantasy rock star who is far more successful in his music career than Nik himself was. He also releases albums of his alter ego's music to family and friends who still humor him by listening to increasingly experimental work. His Chronicles include such documentation as fake music reviews and interviews with the more successful parallel-universe Nik. Meanwhile, Nik's sister Denise trudges along through life taking care of everyone and everything for her family, and getting increasingly absorbed in stories she sees on the news.

The aspects of this book that I liked book include the detailed inspection of reality vs. illusion and how those boundaries can be crossed for better or for worse. Denise's obsession with the news and her over-identification with the stories she sees mirrors Nik's creation of a completely different life from the one he lives. I didn't much like Nik, but then I don't think that I was supposed to. If he were in my life I would find him utterly unbearable. He represents the worst of what can happen when we sleepwalk through life without seeing the truth around and about ourselves. Denise, on the other hand, is busy taking in all the truth to the point that she has trouble separating her real life from what she sees in the news.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Today's World Today July 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This could almost work as a companion piece to last year's blockbusting Visit From the Goon Squad, but only in that they are both contemporary novels using the rock scene of the 70-80's as background. But Stone Arabia has a farther reach, ironically closer to home. Denise, whose brother Nik has chronicled his life obsessively and falsely for 30 years, has a coming of age in her late 40's influenced by her family concerns but also by world events that she obsesses over and that cause her to implode. The dichotomy of these two lines converge in a truly imaginative and original way. Spiotta's last work, Eat The Document, was nominated for awards it should have won. Here's hoping this book gets recognition it deserves.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music, memory, and family September 6, 2011
Nabokov stated in the first page of his 1961 memoir, Speak, Memory, "...our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." In Diana Spiotta's new novel, STONE ARABIA, eccentric narcissist, obsessive archivist and iconoclastic musician Nik Kranis mines that fleeting fissure of light and warns his sister, Denise, "Self-curate or disappear."

This nostalgic and affecting story of siblings (and family) is a philosophical meditation on memory and the driven desire for autobiography--to document and render a consequential life, and to assemble disparate experiences into coherent narratives. "And even then," says Denise, "the backward glance is distorted by the lens of the present...It is not just that emotions distort memory. It is that memory distorts memory."

At the vortex of this novel is fifty-year-old Nik Kranis, aka his alter ego, Nik Worth, a pre-punk, no-hit wonder, LA musician, whose band The Fakes almost made it twenty years ago. "Nik had the sensibility down. And Nik had the look down. He was born to look pasty and skinny and angular."

But a combination of self-sabotage and solipsism undermined commercial success, and Nik alternately constructed a legendary career in music via his manufactured narrative, "The Chronicles." Stretching back from1973-2004, "The Chronicles" is a thirty-volume reinvention of a life, a daily scrapbook and fictionalized biography of Nik Worth, platinum rock star. It is a career arc so detailed and spectacular that it would rival Dylan's.

Included in The Chronicles is every band Nik was ever in, every record he ever made, and his solo career, recorded via his twenty-volume "Ontology of Worth.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Disappointment
After reading an ecstatic review of this novel in a literary journal, I bought it with high hopes. In fact, I bought two copies, one for me and one for my wife, so that we could... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Talent House
3.0 out of 5 stars An exploration of memory
There were a lot of things about this book I enjoyed and my ultimate disappointment with it probably has more to do with me than with the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Elizabeth
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Unsatisfying ending
Other reviewers have pretty much said it all. It's an interesting enough read, very nicely written ( although the Chronicles' small italics print was hard to read), and the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by August West
1.0 out of 5 stars that's it??
Slow and nothing happens. Uninteresting characters. Author has interesting writing style. Not sure what the hype is about. Read more
Published 19 months ago by SSLYBY
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more
I had just heard Dana Spiotta read from this novel at AWP, the huge writiers' conference which was held in Boston a few weeks ago. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Nina Gaby
3.0 out of 5 stars I Kept Waiting
I read the whole book, but only because I needed to find out how it got its title. Well, it didn't get to that until the end, and I was disappointed in that. Read more
Published 23 months ago by ILUVCOOKIES
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking post-modern novel
I had to read this for a text and context class at the University of Kentucky, but had I read it for pleasure it would have been just as inspirational as far as my thoughts are... Read more
Published on December 28, 2012 by Joshua Moore
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough. . .of anything
I was disappointed in Stone Arabia. I now see that Amazon says people who bought this book also bought "Open City" by Cole - for me, one of my least satisfying reads of 2012. Read more
Published on December 2, 2012 by Susanne
3.0 out of 5 stars A meditation on middle-age
While I was fascinated by the idea of Nik Worth's secret artistic oeuvre, overall, a touch more narrative drive might have pulled this book together more effectively for me. Read more
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sharon McGill
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Rock and Roll to Me
I read a review in a newspaper for this book and it sounded like it would be fun. Wrong.

This book is not really about rock and roll and one man's compulsion to... Read more
Published on November 3, 2012 by T. Karr
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More About the Author

Dana Spiotta is the author of STONE ARABIA, which was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award. Her second novel, EAT THE DOCUMENT, was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. Her first novel, LIGHTNING FIELD, was an LA Times Best Book of the West and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Spiotta received the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2007 and New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in 2008. The American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy in Rome awarded her the 2008 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize.

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