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Stone Arabia: A Novel Hardcover – July 12, 2011

3.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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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)


“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781451617962
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451617962
  • ASIN: 1451617968
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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