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Stone Arabia

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  2,543 Ratings  ·  417 Reviews
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 relationsh
Hardcover, 235 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Scribner (first published 2011)
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Jun 14, 2012 Lou rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, july-read
You will find in this novel some swell writing, the story flows well and touches many issues of the modern era. The protagonist Denise rambles on life, the bubble around her brother Nik the music artist and her mother Ada who is slowly heading down the Dementia road. The story includes real news headlines from timeline of 1978 to 2004 and the protagonists take on it and her heart felt view on matters. Lots of family stuff what could have been, what’s liked and disliked.

This book takes me back to
Jul 23, 2011 christa rated it really liked it
In the winter of 2007 my boyfriend and I invented a game called "Let's just see where the day takes us." This would start with taking a bus downtown and end 18 hours later passed out in a stony booze coma, snoring out a toxic mix of carbon dioxide and alcohol fumes. A few days ago he found photographic evidence of one of those days. The shots taken early in the night are quiet and abstract: a series of match books lined up on the counter of the bar, a pint of beer, candid portraits before our fa ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Yvonne rated it it was ok
There are points in this book where I was so frustrated with the clunky attempts at post-post-modern structure games that I had to put it down. Reading through all the positive reviews of this work, I almost feel I must've read a different book. This is not a "rock'n'roll" novel but instead a mish-mash of prose about two sad people living pathetic lives. There's little here that's compelling although the character "Nik" has his moments. The forced connections between the narrator Denise's obsess ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
The book misses on every level. Oh, there are paragraphs here and there of fine writing and phrases, there are the starts of intelligent explorations of memory, family, rock and roll musicians, holding on to love, but then phytttttt. In reading this, it feels like a lit firecracker which unexpectedly goes out. The story doesn't explore anything enough with any theme or topic. This novel would have made a better short story, especially if it had focused on the characters of Denise and her mother. ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Al rated it it was ok
A weird thing happens a few times where a change in narrator (from 1st person to 3rd) is signaled by nothing more than a page break. It really threw me off the first time it happened.

I'm really surprised that some of the other negative reviews I've seen (on goodreads, anyway) direct their disdain primarily at the two main characters, who are apparently "losers". If being middle-aged, cash poor and lonely makes them losers, then sure, but how often is a compelling novel written about a "winner"?
Robert Warren
Aug 24, 2012 Robert Warren rated it really liked it
Dana Spiotta has been reading my mail and walking through my memories and dreams. Which is fine, really. She is most welcome.

Not since Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad has an author captured so much of what drew me and my crew to certain types of music when I was a kid. Three decades on, I've begun to realize I may never again feel such unfettered passion, but Stone Arabia comes tantalizingly close to revivifying some heady feelings. At times I could smell Aqua Net while I was readin
Jul 23, 2011 Mythili rated it it was ok
My take on this book: meh. But I'm having an incredibly hard time articulating why I was so wearied and largely unimpressed by what should have, by all accounts, been a fascinating read. The premise of the book is promising. Nik is a famous rockstar, but nobody knows it except for a handful of fans -- his ex-bandmates, his ex-girlfriends, his sister, his niece. By all appearances, Nik's an aging, washed-up musician turned druggie bartender, but in his secret life (documented in a 30-volume scrap ...more
Jul 18, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it
Many of Spiotta’s preoccupations appear here, obsessively watching movies, mentally ill siblings, cultural fixation to the point of psychological, our visions of reality versus the grim mortality of it, an almost surreal examination of the objects of our culture, and trying to find real emotions in a society built on spectacle. This book revolves around a sister and a brother. The brother has over the years obsessively (can’t help but use that word a lot when discussing one of her books) created ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 06, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
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 auto
Patrick Brown
Nov 27, 2012 Patrick Brown rated it really liked it
A fascinating meditation on memory and narrative. Denise is the sister of Nik, a rock star in his own mind and obsessive chronicler of his own stardom. The prose in this book is wonderful. Lots of people mention Don DeLillo as an influence (and he's thanked in the acknowledgments), and I can see why. The mixture of sparse, declarative sentences with more angular stuff really makes the paragraphs click.

I found myself thinking a lot about Daniel Johnston, the great singer/songwriter/outsider artis
Heather June Gibbons
So loved this. I can't wait to read more by Spiotta.
Jun 12, 2012 Alena rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alena by: Kathy Sexton
I'm thinking about past events. I'm interested in recall, exact recall, of what was said, who said it and to whom. I want to know the truth, undistorted by time and revision and wishes and regrets.

So says Denise Kranis, the 40-ish narrator of Dana Spiotta’s brilliant novel, Stone Arabia. Denise is comparing her own story-telling to that of her brother Nik’s, which involves much more elaborately constructed and documented versions of reality. I love this truth-seeking premise, even more so for th
Dec 27, 2014 Nate rated it it was amazing
I'm a young guy. The music side of things appealed to me but I was afraid of that the whole "aging sibling" thing might be a drag. I was worried that it would be old people afraid of getting old. And it is. But it's very real, very human and amazingly well done.I haven't read anything else by Spiotta. I read this because by chance I heard the book reviewed and profiled on NPR.

The theme of this book is tied up in memory and history. You have Nik the eccentric musician who has rewritten and obses
Larry Hoffer
Jul 24, 2011 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it
Dana Spiotta's third novel is a sometimes moving, poetic story about family, fame, memory, fear of loss and obsession—and how each can take their toll on life.

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
Oct 02, 2014 Lemar rated it it was amazing
So many human emotions and experiences are timeless but there is something about recent fiction that can further the intimate relationship between author and reader. Spiotta includes current phenomena like the crawl under the t.v. news and the emotions that brings as our brains are fed this diet rich in salaciousness. The main character Denise is with us on our long strange trip. Spiotta has the wonderful talent of telling a great story with deceptive ease. One has the deep literary enjoyment of ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Edan rated it it was amazing
I was going to write something for The Millions about this--but someone beat me to it! D'oh!

This book is beautiful and so deliciously sad. Spiotta's writing reminds me of Don DeLillo's crossed with Jennifer Egan's crossed with Lydia Davis's. I wasn't jazzed by the switches to first and third person in the book (the set-up felt clunky), but I was so taken by this story of a brother and a sister. I loved the surprising structure and all that's said about memory, identity, and living in a world whe
Ron Charles
Dec 22, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
“Stone Arabia” is one of those weird titles that sound brilliant only after you’ve finished the book. “A Visit from the Goon Squad” was another one, and it’s curious that both these clever novels jump off the 1980s punk scene in Los Angeles and then move into the melancholy tones of middle age. Like Jennifer Egan, Dana Spiotta records the smothered dreams of a washed-up musician, but what she’s really listening for is the melody of nostalgia that none of us can resist.

At the center of “Stone Ara
Justin Evans
Feb 27, 2015 Justin Evans rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I've now read each of Spiotta's novels, and all of them were fascinating period pieces. I don't mean she really caught the spirit of the '90s in her first novel, the '70s in her second, and the '00s in this one. I mean her novels are exactly what people will think of when, in a few decades, they talk about early 21st century American literary fiction. There is much existential angst about meaninglessness, empathy and emotional distance. There is stuff about new media. There is metanarrative. The ...more
Dec 16, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing
What is the worth of art, memory, or life itself? In this intelligently rendered novel, Dana Spiotta, a meditation-of-sorts on the quest for stardom, she carefully deconstructs the concept of what is valuable and how we strip down to reveal our true identities.

Outside artist Nik Worth – appropriately named – is an aging non-starter rock ‘n’ roller, a legend in his own mind, who has spent his lifetime pursuing art for art’s sake. “I grew up to like not having an audience,” he reveals. “Imagine be
Tom Baker
May 09, 2012 Tom Baker rated it really liked it
There's an old, probably apocryphal story about JD Salinger that goes something like this: the famously reclusive writer one day encountered an acquaintance who asked if he had been writing anything. Of course I have, Salinger replied. Great, said the acquaintance, when will you be publishing it? And Salinger, as though his acquaintance had made the most outlandish suggestion imaginable, replied: "Publish it? What in the world for?"

Nik Worth, the focus of Dana Spiotta's Stone Arabia, is somethin
Dec 29, 2011 Marieke rated it liked it
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. In many ways i liked it a lot. I liked the narrator's voice, mostly, except she was too reflective for my taste and i thought a lot of the musings were not that well developed. I liked Nik's story...I thought his story alone would have made a fantastic book. I liked that there was a bit of mystery about what the heck "went wrong."

But for some reason Spiotta wanted to write two books in one and on one of those she did not deliver (for me). I did not rea
Aug 19, 2011 Laurie rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book is interesting, but not compelling. The narrative voice, Nik's sister Denise, is insightful, yet boring. You get to know about her, but you never care about her. She's more a composite of traits than a realized character. Perhaps intentionally, Nik is fascinating, and fully three-dimensional, which makes the book readable, but seeing everything through Denise's eyes makes it even more depressing than it would be through the eyes of an omniscient, more-removed narrator. Of course, no on ...more
Sep 01, 2011 Jen added it
Shelves: 2011
Middle-aged siblings Denise and Nik are "alternative versions" of the same person; she is too open to the outside world and can't stop watching the news, becoming obsessed with world events, while he draws inward, writing a fictional memoir in which he became a rock star instead of a brilliant but obscure musician. She discards her life's detritus without a second thought, while he archives and hoards. She feels the pain of strangers on television; he cares only about himself. As Denise and Nik ...more
Jun 22, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it
I was drawn in early on, partly because the era and scene of the lead characters somewhat paralleled my own, but I ultimately found the story a bit anti climactic and a little clunky. As other reviewers pointed out, it was odd the way Spiotta seemed to jump from first person to third with no evident purpose.
Paul Gleason
Dec 06, 2012 Paul Gleason rated it it was amazing
Why, GoodReads people, did you give Dana Spiotta's Stone Arabia a 3.29 rating? Don't you know genius when you see it, when it hits you smack dab in the face, like a windmill strum crashing at you through Pete Townshend's Marshall stacks, like My Bloody Valentine's twenty-minute noise explosion in the middle of "You Made Me Realise"?

Well, Stone Arabia is a work of genius by a writer of genius, who (and I need to use all caps here) HAS BROUGHT NEWNESS TO THE WORLD. Yes, folks, she's written somet
Aug 03, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: artists of any kind
Dana Spiotta's third novel hit me so hard and deeply that I haven't been able to write about it for weeks. I won't rehash the plot because you can find that in numerous places on the Web. Briefly, it is a story about a musician and his younger sister in Los Angeles.

What it is really about is the life of a creative individual who was never recognized by the music industry or by pop culture. I would guess that such a fate is usual for a huge percentage of creative persons. Most of us take it more
Feb 28, 2013 Owen rated it really liked it
Shelves: notable
Stone Arabia is the story of two siblings, Denise and Nik. If they had experienced sibling rivalry early on in life, they had moved past that, both now in their fourties. Denise worries. For her brother, the unconventional musician, and her mother, who is losing her mind to dementia. Denise practices memory exercises so she too won't lose her memory and mind, and this creates a sense of confusion in her, where her mother stops and she begins. Nik had always made music, but he acknowledged that h ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Pamela added it
Dana Spiotta is among the current novelists who most fascinate me. Her books are enormously engaging, succinct, easy to get into and then get lost in, and yet utterly original and demanding both in form and content. I am a big fan of her second novel, Eat the Document, about two early-70s anti-war activists who, after killing someone in a bombing, go "underground" for the next 30 years. In Stone Arabia, her third novel, Spiotta follows a 47-year-old Denise and her older brother, Nik. Nik, decade ...more
Aug 25, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
Meh. I wanted to like this book, but it just fell completely flat for me. When I finished it, I was thinking, "is that it?". Simply disappointing. Good potential, but falls very short.
Jan 09, 2017 Ron rated it it was amazing
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Scribner published Dana Spiotta’s first novel, Lightning Field, in 2001. The New York Times called it “the debut of a wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today.” It was a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the West.

Her second novel, E
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“Do you need an audience to create work, or does not having an audience liberate you and make you a truer artist?” 13 likes
“The issue isn't, Am I good enough? No. The issue is, Do I not have any other choice? Will and desire don't matter. Ability doesn't matter. Need is the only thing that matters.” 12 likes
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