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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spiotta working against tradition in Stone Arabia

A further note on Dana Spotta's Stone Arabia (didn't read much last night, sorry) - the novel, or at least a long stretch of it, is organized as the narrator's journal, daily entries over a stretch of a few weeks in February 2004 (novel published in 2011); entry I read last night was a few pages in which narrator takes her brother, Nik, to visit one of Nik's former bandmates, now living in the Valley and dying of emphysema and edema and other ailments associated w/ the musician's life of drugs and drinking and road trips. So we see these two ruined men, formerly part of the punk scene in LA (Spiotta has a lot of fun with the nomenclature of the many subsets of indie rock, some of which I would guess she's invented just for kicks), and it's kind of sad, pathetic - especially re Nik, who was a young man of such promise and talent who now works in a bar, listens to CDs of his own music, and drinks to excess, essentially killing himself. In isolation, it's a good chapter - but I just don't see the cumulative effect here. These seem to be a sequence of events but I don't get a sense of the shape or direction of this novel, why the narrator is focusing on these days in particular. Spiotta is working against tradition and expectations here, building a character study through college and through accrual of incident rather than through plot: collision of forces, arc of development, moment of crisis or decision. Not sure if this is typical of her work, and not sure (I'm about half-way through) whether there will be more payoff as the narrative unfolds.

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