Sunday, July 24, 2011
Book Review: "Stone Arabia" by Dana Spiotta
Dana Spiotta's third novel is a sometimes moving, poetic story about family, fame, memory, fear of loss and obsessionand 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 articles and other memorabilia. While this expansive fantasy world Nik has created troubles Denise, his younger sister, she has issues of her own. In caring for their mother, who is in the early stages of dementia, Denise is convinced she is losing her own mind, and worries she will have no one to take care of her. And to top that off, Denise gets fixated on tragedies reported in the media, from childhood abductions, hostage crises, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, etc. When Denise's daughter, Ada, decides to make a documentary about Nik's life and art, it opens everyone up to anxiety about truth, art, fact and fiction, and Denise realizes for the first time that everything isn't headed in the right direction.
I love books that explore the creative process, especially in the music world, and Stone Arabia is a really compelling look at the obsession with art, creativity and fame. When the book explores Nik and Denise's relationship, the book is at its strongest, because so many of us can identify with the way people slip into the same roles when dealing with their loved ones. This is a fascinating and heartbreaking story, but pieces of the storyparticularly a strange road trip Denise takes near the end of the bookdon't ring as true as others. In the end, Spiotta is a terrific storyteller, and I found myself hooked from start to finish.