by Dana Spiotta
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Recommended by John Warner
Note: Unlike most books on The Staff Recommends, this is an unpaid recommendation. But we think you’ll enjoy it, so we’re featuring it anyway.
It’s been three weeks since I finished reading Stone Arabia, and I’m still not entirely sure what I can say about it, other than it’s been three weeks since I finished reading Stone Arabia, and I continue to think about what I might want to say about it.
Its most interesting qualities rest in the nested quality of the narrative, primarily the story of Nik Worth, a failed musician in everyone’s mind, but his own, as told (mostly) by his simultaneously adoring and pretty much fed-up sister, Denise. Denise was Nik’s first fan, as he and his band made a brief splash on the L.A. punk scene, but as Nik’s real career fizzled, a rich fantasy alternate existence came to life, fueled by the creation of his own “chronicles,” scrapbooks detailing the life of Nik Worth, superstar. From this premise, the book burrows deeper and deeper into its concerns, the fragility of memory, the fidelity of family, sibling rivalry and responsibility, and while I’d be hard pressed to even say that the book has a plot, each page reveals more and more tension.
When I finished the book, I had a vague feeling of dissatisfaction, that certain threads dangled in front of me where never properly tied up, including the significance of the book’s title, but the intervening weeks have demonstrated that this is part of Spiotta’s point, that our stories are not so easily explained, and it would be a disservice to pretend otherwise. Stone Arabia is a book that is perfectly true to its own attentions, a real achievement, and a work that will stick with you long after the final page.
John Warner is the editor of The Staff Recommends and the author of Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant.