Friday, August 24, 2012

Stone Arabia by Diana Spiotta

Denise Kranis may be the only adult member of her family. Her daughter has moved from southern California to New York City to be part of the arts scene. Her elderly mother is beginning to slide into dementia. And her older brother Nik has never managed to grow out of the self-absorbed, garage band musician he became when his father gave him a guitar for his tenth birthday. A near success, a “no-hit wonder,” Nik has spent his entire adult life writing songs for his self-recorded albums, creating handmade covers and his own liner notes and reviews for them, and numbering, autographing and mailing them to his few fans. Additionally, he writes his Chronicles in which he obsessively documents his life and work, complete with fake facts, fake letters and fake literary quotes. Because Nik lives in this fantasy world, Denise must bear the burden of guiding her family through real life, leaving her few resources for her own problems: the debt she has incurred helping Nik, her sparse social life, her own failing memory, and an unnatural obsession with televised tragic BREAKING NEWS stories which involve shootings, kidnappings and rare diseases. Stone Arabia documents some common problems of modern life: fame (or lack of it), aging, illness, debt and disappointment. They may not be breaking news but they can be difficult and all-consuming for those dealing with them.