Stone Arabia: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

From Dana Spiotta, author of the excellent Eat the Document, comes Stone Arabia. In this slim novel, middle-aged Los Angeleno Denise evaluates the last six months (and, at times, forty-plus years) of her life so far. Paramount on her mind is her brother, Nik, a reclusive musician who's recorded dozens of albums in his garage and maintains an exhaustive (and often fictive) chronicle of his career. Denise is also worried about her deteriorating mother, her college-age daughter, and herself. Spiotta avoids the dramatic implosions and "devastating secrets" of so many dysfunctional family dramas. Instead, she relies on fully realized characters, lived-in scenes, keen cultural observations, and crisp, purposeful prose to tell her tale. I read this book compulsively to the end and have missed the characters ever since.

— Michael


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 haunts Denise. When her daughter, Ada, decides to make a film about Nik, everyone’s vulnerabilities seem to escalate.

Dana Spiotta has established herself as a “singularly powerful and provocative writer” (The Boston Globe) whose work is fiercely original. Stone Arabia—riveting, unnerving, and strangely beautiful—reexamines what it means to be an artist and redefines the ties that bind.

About the Author

Dana Spiotta is the author of Innocents and Others; Stone Arabia, A National Books Critics Circle Award finalist; and Eat the Document, a finalist for the National Book Award. Spiotta is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize for Literature. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

Praise For…

“Added to the brilliant glitter of Ms. Spiotta’s earlier 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.”—

“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

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781451617962
ISBN-10: 1451617968
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: July 12th, 2011
Pages: 256
Language: English