Monday, October 3, 2011

Stone Arabia

I'm still trying to figure out this book. Two characters, pretty much; a brother and a sister. Close to no plot. I'm beginning to think there's either too many books about drugs or I'm just reading them all. The brother, Nik Kranis, is approaching his 50th birthday. He's never really amounted to much in the typical societal sense. He drinks. He does drugs. Perpetually broke and bumming money off his sister.

On the other hand, decades ago, he developed an alter ego, Nik Worth, who was/is a musician. He had a band that had some minor success. When the band dissolved, Nick continued on but in a bit of a make-believe sense. He put out albums with limited edition covers that he gave to friends and family and (ex)girlfriends. He wrote fake reviews and interviews and pasted them into scrapbooks he called the Chronicles. He even creates fake bootleg albums of fake concerts.

In this sense I was reminded of a work of baseball fiction I always have liked, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., which is about a fellow who creates a baseball dice game and gets too involved with his fantasy players. In both cases, you have guys whose lives aren't fulfilling enough and so they create this fictitious world that provides them with more enjoyment.

The characters in both books also rely on meticulous record-keeping. Waugh records every play of every game as well as writing newspaper articles about the games and creating backstories for the players.

From the standpoint of characters being concerned with preserving history, even fictitious ones, I enjoyed both books. There's a bit of existential concern there. Without Nik's Chronicles, what is Nik? Most would label him a failure. Once his life ended, what would there be to show for it? But he created something that would outlast him, even if it wasn't exactly "real".

That's really the story, though. The sister is a personal assistant for a real estate developer and takes care of Nik financially as best she can, despite being three years younger. She has a daughter who wants to make a documentary about Nik which is interesting in itself. Can you make a documentary about something that isn't factual? Well, of course you can. See This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show (I've only seen the latter). But what exactly does that mean?

Getting back to the sister, she is hyperemotional and far less interesting than Nik. She's always fretting about something and the novel ends with her traveling to a little Amish town to express concern about a missing little girl.

Most other reviews of this book wring far more meaning out of it than I did. Perhaps there is more to be gained from reading Stone Arabia than I was able to glean. Being as I read fiction to be entertained, though, I'm bothered more from the lack of an interesting story than I am that maybe I didn't "get it". Perhaps if the story were better, I would have grasped the authors intent better.

1 comment:

theoncominghope said...

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

Detailed thoughts are here: