Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta focuses on the relationship between two siblings, the narrator Denis and her brother Nik who grew up surrounded by the music scene of Los Angeles in the late seventies and early eighties. Since then, Denise has grown up and gotten a career to help support her and her daughter, Ada. On the other hand, Nik now makes his music in private, obsessively documenting it all and rarely sharing beyond a narrow circle that sometimes includes only Denise. When Ada comes to town looking to make a documentary about Nik, everything that Denise has worked so hard to hide from seems to come pouring out and the result will have consequences they never could have foreseen.

Spiotta's writing is sharp and precise, letting the reader into the obsessive yet vulnerable mind but in the end I remained disconnected from the novel. There was some lovely writing, but in the end I didn't care what happened to the characters and had a difficult time reminding myself to pick up the book again. There may have been sentences that struck me as beautiful when I was reading them, and there were certainly quite a few, but afterwards they vanished from my mind, the story itself slowly evaporating, and I wondered what the point was of such writing if it was impermanent?

What Spiotta does do successfully is let the reader into the mind of what it is like when art is everything, when you are isolated and consumed. In Stone Arabia she writes:
"Ask someone who is truly obsessed why they feel that way. They will sputter, they will feel you are interrogating their private world, they may spout a list of reasons, but ultimately they can’t fully explain it. Obsession has an irrational or subrational heart. It is a bit like falling in love, I imagine."
It was such moments of clarity that resulted in me finishing a novel I may have otherwise abandoned. I must admit that in the end I didn't like Stone Arabia, I couldn't connect to any of the characters, but I also have the suspicion that perhaps that was not the intention of the book after all. Spiotta provides a bit of light for the reader into a dark world that the truly obsessed may inhabit- it's not something enjoyable to read about, but it does provide the core of Stone Arabia, a sometimes intriguing, sometimes disconnected, novel.

Release Date: July 12th, 2011
Pages: 256
Buy the Book
Source: Simon and Schuster Galley Grab

1 comment:

  1. I'm still not sold entirely on this novel, but the way Spiotta plays with perspective is fascinating.

    Detailed thoughts are here:


Your comments make my day!