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Stone Arabia

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  2,002 ratings  ·  358 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...more
Hardcover, 235 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Scribner
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Lou
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...more
christa
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
Yvonne
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 loves HalLowEen
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
Al
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"?...more
Robert B
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...more
Adam
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
Mythili
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
Patrick Brown
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...more
switterbug (Betsey)
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...more
Alena
Jun 12, 2012 Alena rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Tom Baker
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...more
Nate
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...more
Laurie
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
Marieke
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...more
Jen
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
Lemar
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
Edan
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...more
Ron Charles
“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...more
Owen
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
Paul Gleason
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...more
Judy
Aug 03, 2011 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
John Norman
Roughly, the story is told by a sister about a brother who is one of those "lost" cult rock artists. In this case, her brother has not only been recording in obscurity, but he has created a personal mythology around his works, with his own archive of fake bands, fake reviews, fake interviews. It is very plausible, for good reason: Spiotta got the idea of the story from the creative (non-)career of her stepfather. It's good stuff. I enjoyed reading it.

Dana Spiotta is a great writer of words, but...more
Lisa
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.
Itasca Community Library
Jeff says:

I like the idea of outsider artists that still create their art no matter if they become famous or wealthy from it. Nik even mentions Henry Darger who was a Chicago janitor who was found, after his death, to have written and painted a great deal of work. Nik is this type of character. It seems like Denise, his sister, remains his biggest fan even though she is no longer willing yo loan him money for rent or agree with the way he lives. This is a great book about brother/sister relation...more
Ms.pegasus
Jul 23, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: book clubs -- lots of material to discuss
Shelves: fiction
The book opens with a memory – Denise's memory of her brother's 10th birthday. Their father, an infrequent visitor, makes a surprise appearance, and gives her brother Nik a guitar. It's the beginning of Nik's obsession with music. He is obviously talented. He teaches himself to play and forms a garage band. His real gift, however, is songwriting. His other gift is that he realizes this is where his talent lies.

The story is narrated through Denise and is anchored in the book's present, July 1, 2...more
Paul
Stone Arabia starts off as the story of Denise and Nik, two forty-ish siblings living in the Los Angeles area. We meet Denise in the immediate aftermath of...something involving her brother, though what "it" is remains unclear. The real focus of the story, however is memory: what it is, what happens to it, what it means to different people. Denise is caring for their aging mother who is going through the early stages of dementia. Denise, perhaps in actuality, perhaps due to suggestion becomes in...more
Nicole
Stone Arabia, a tiny Amish village in upstate New York that features briefly near this wonderful novel's end, stands in stark opposition to the media-saturated overload of the narrator's life in L.A. Denise Kranis lives crisis to crisis, under-employed and over-extended in a world of 24-hour news cycles and internet info-sifting. Desperate to hold onto what's real of her ragtag family, she sees her own version of events as all that can stand amid her mother's increasing dementia and her brother'...more
Larry Hoffer
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...more
Carol
If you are going to write a book about Los Angeles, and the city will be, even in some small way, a theme in your writing, you are going to have to convince me to stick with you. The winner and still champ-peen of the Los Angeles novel is Joan Didion's "Play it As it Lays." Didion drove the highways first, both lamented and soaked up the colors and light first, and got the best of the pre-War on Drugs meds stash. (Please note here that I don't read noir or mystery, so I can't speak to how these...more
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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...more
More about Dana Spiotta...
Eat the Document Lightning Field L.A Girl Total Loss Farm: A Year in the Life

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“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.” 10 likes
“Do you need an audience to create work, or does not having an audience liberate you and make you a truer artist?” 10 likes
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