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Stone Arabia: A Novel Hardcover – July 12, 2011
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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)
“Added to the brilliant glitter of Ms. Spiotta’s earlier work...is 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
"Stone Arabia is a rock n’ roll novel like no other. Where desire for legacy tangles with fantasy. And identity and memory are in and out of control. A loser’s game of conceit, deceit, passion, love and the raw mystery of superstar desire."—Thurston Moore
"Stone Arabia possesses the edged beauty and charged prose of Dana Spiotta’s earlier work, but in this novel about siblings, music, teen desire and adult decay, Spiotta reaches ever deeper, tracking her characters’ sweet, dangerous American dreaming with glorious precision. Here is a wonderful novel by one of our major writers."--Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
“The book maps a post-punk milieu where the sense of completeness punk offered... never goes away. Spiotta can capture whole lives in the most ordinary transaction, and make it cut like X’s ‘Los Angeles’ or the Avengers’ ‘Car Crash.’—Greil Marcus, The Believer
“With a DeLillo-like ability to pinpoint the delusions of an era, the National Book Award-nominated Spiotta explores the inner workings of celebrity, family, and other modern-day mythologies.”--Vogue
“Spiotta’s book is a triumph of structure... The skill with which Spiotta builds her characters and their offbeat, nuanced relationship makes it easy to feel like the kind of panting fan Nik could only have written about.”—NPR.org
“Extraordinary…. Diamond-honed prose.... Spiotta delivers one of the most moving and original portraits of a sibling relationship in recent fiction.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Stunning . . . possesses the staccato ferocity of Joan Didion and the historical resonance and razzle-dazzle language of Don DeLillo.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Stone Arabia is propelled by Spiotta’s unflashy eloquence, dry wit and depth of feeling. She’s an exceptional novelist, as sharp on socio-political history as she is on romance and family and especially, the spaces where such things overlap.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A splendid concept...brisk...a testament to Spiotta’s intelligent style.”—Buffalo News
“Masterful...Spiotta’s intelligence and curiosity animate every page.”—Portland Oregonian
“Spiotta’s slim, intense novel is an insightful meditation on the damage wrought by a fame-obsessed culture, an unflinching look at family bonds that can turn to shackles and a virtuoso literary performance.”—St. Petersburg Times
“[Dana Spiotta has] captured that hankering for something alluring in the past that never was – a moment of desire and pretense that the best pop music articulates for each generation.”—Houston Chronicle
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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.
Nik Worth, born Nicholas Kranis, was a musician on the fringes of celebrity in the late 1970s. After his period of minor fame passed, he continued making music under the guise of several fictional bands (and record labels)--and obsessively building a fictional chronicle of his career, authoring myriad reviews, fan magazine interviews, news articles and other memorabilia. While this expansive fantasy world Nik has created troubles Denise, his younger sister, she has issues of her own. In caring for their mother, who is in the early stages of dementia, Denise is convinced she is losing her own mind, and worries she will have no one to take care of her. And to top that off, Denise gets fixated on tragedies reported in the media, from childhood abductions, hostage crises, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, etc. When Denise's daughter, Ada, decides to make a documentary about Nik's life and art, it opens everyone up to anxiety about truth, art, fact and fiction, and Denise realizes for the first time that everything isn't headed in the right direction.
I love books that explore the creative process, especially in the music world, and Stone Arabia is a really compelling look at the obsession with art, creativity and fame. When the book explores Nik and Denise's relationship, the book is at its strongest, because so many of us can identify with the way people slip into the same roles when dealing with their loved ones. This is a fascinating and heartbreaking story, but pieces of the story--particularly a strange road trip Denise takes near the end of the book--don't ring as true as others. In the end, Spiotta is a terrific storyteller, and I found myself hooked from start to finish.
Most recent customer reviews
Great companion piece for Jennifer Egan's A visit from the Goon Squad.