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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 haunt Denise. When her daughter Ada decides to make a film about Nik, everyone’s vulnerabilities seem to escalate.
PRAISE FOR STONE ARABIA
“Identity — and the very American belief that individuals can invent or reinvent themselves anew here — is the bright thread that runs through the work of the immensely talented novelist Dana Spiotta…Added to the brilliant glitter of Ms. Spiotta’s earlier work — so reminiscent, at times, of early Don DeLillo and early Joan Didion — is something deeper and sadder: not just alienation, but a hard-won awareness of mortality and passing time…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.”
“Spiotta’s book is a triumph.”
“Stone Arabia is really propelled by Spiotta’s unflashy eloquence, dry wit and depth of feeling. She’s an exceptional novelist, as sharp on sociopolitical history as she is on romance and family and, especially, the spaces where such things overlap.”
“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. She’s captured that hankering for something alluring in the past that never was.”
“Transfixing…it’s as though Nabokov had written a rock novel.”
“Evocative, mysterious, incongruously poetic…gritty, intelligent, mordent, and deeply sad…Spiotta has created, in Stone Arabia, a work of visceral honesty and real beauty.”
“Here, Spiotta makes plain the terms of her narrative, which has to do with the way we all chronicle our years in minute-but-twisted detail, rendering and re-rendering our experience until we can get it to cohere. That this is an inherently conditional process makes it no less essential or universal; it just bestows another sort of grace… 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. The issue is authenticity, which in a society such as this one, saturated with images and trivia, becomes perhaps the most elusive grail.”
“Stone Arabia is a profound and moving portrayal of siblings — a rarity in adult literature. Perhaps we must go back to John Barth’s 1960 novel The Sot-Weed Factor to find a brother-sister rendering as seriously, originally fine.”
“Dana Spiotta’s stunning, virtuoso novel Stone Arabia plays out the A and B sides of a sibling bond between a brother—now a reclusive middle-aged musician who, seeing his shot at rock superstardom burn out, obsesses over his scrap-books, a fantasy version of his career—and his idolizing younger sister and enabler, now a mom, who strives for family harmony.”
“Stone Arabia is a collage of discursive textures, a polyphonic meditation on epistemology. But I hope I’m not making it sound like some overly clever metafiction. It is not that, at all. It is a smart, subtle, moving story about the complicated business of knowing the people you love. …a wild, sorrowful, rambling, deeply subjective, incandescently beautiful document.”
“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.’”
“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.”
“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.”
“A fine novel about heartbreak. Spiotta keenly understands how busily we construct images of ourselves for the public, and how hard loved ones work to dismantle them.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.