Books / Music

Book Review: Stone Arabia

Well, I just finished Stone Arabia.  By Dana Spiotta, who is a teacher in the MFA program at Syracuse and a writer who seems like she has a lot of fun doing what she does.

It took me too long to read, because I haven’t been in college for a while and books are hard for me to complete without due dates and deadlines (as is, well… everything else in life) and I finally put it down with about twenty pages to go, said I got the gist, then felt guilty and picked it back up again.

Christmas colored pencils, handwritten notes & hardback books for the holidays.

I stopped at the part where a dear friend (named Jolly, who gave me the book and is the most well-read woman I’ve ever met and also is a lovely person) wrote “shall I give up on done/finished?” in the margin. It was intentional though. The author knows the difference, the narrator knows the difference, the protagonist does not.

Stone Arabia is about a neurotic family full of lovely weirdos who grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It’s full of lists, dates, vignettes, stylistic switches, and grammar mistakes, a very reading-ish read to come back to after a year spent poring over scripts. In fact, I almost forgot what it was about because I got so lost in its prose maze. Which is always a fun adventure. Unless you’re reading anything James Joyce ever wrote.

The protagonist (Denise) looks everything up on Wikipedia and journals obsessively and half of the book is written in journal. Her brother (Nik) hand-writes the narrative of his life from the perspectives of meta-fictional reviewers, critics, and biographers in a series of hand-decorated binders called “The Chronicles” and organizes them in his studio apartment over cigarettes and bourbon. Everyone is obsessed with writing it all down, forgetting none of it. No memory left behind, and photographs just aren’t good enough.

“It does not help, having a photo. I believe — I know — that photos have destroyed our memories. Every time we take a photograph, we forget to embed things in our minds, in our actual brain cells.”

I couldn’t relate more! Perhaps my love of list-making is what drew me to the book in the first place, but I will say, it’s always nice to look at a page and realize it’s not filled to the margins. Makes the book feel finishable. Italics, too, are a nice change of pace. And bold.

My reading cave/corner of couch. Conspicuously absent: Fireplace.

In conclusion: sorta slow, but worth the read if you’re feeling bookish. Blankets, fireplace, earl grey, and a pencil (for the underlining you’ll do; it’s a very underline-able novel) recommended.

Next on the list? Dinner (ordering in).

*Originally posted on*


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