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.
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 "blas 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.