×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

In the Electric Eden: Stories
     

In the Electric Eden: Stories

5.0 2
by Nick Arvin
 
Writer and former engineer Nick Arvin layers his knowledge of technology, mechanical design, and human character into a collection of emotionally riveting stories. With a subtle hand he transports readers through history and across America to ten poignant and utterly unforgettable places: a traffic accident in the middle of the heartland; the electrocution of Topsy

Overview

Writer and former engineer Nick Arvin layers his knowledge of technology, mechanical design, and human character into a collection of emotionally riveting stories. With a subtle hand he transports readers through history and across America to ten poignant and utterly unforgettable places: a traffic accident in the middle of the heartland; the electrocution of Topsy the elephant at Coney Island at the turn of the century; the backyard of an old recluse; a Marine Corps practice invasion of the Florida beaches; a romantic tryst in a dismal corporate office; the launching of the first manned American hydrogen balloon in the eighteenth century; and more. Constantly aware of how technology shapes the way we interact with each other and experience the world, Arvin uses these original settings and compelling characters to create a moving collection of stories that, though seemingly unlinked, comes together to form a stunning, awe-inspiring whole.


About the Author:
Nick Arvin was born and raised in Michigan, received a degree in engineering from Stanford, and spent three years in product development at the Ford Motor Company before leaving to earn his MFA in Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop. He has recently been awarded a Michener Grant, and his stories have been published in The Black Warrior Review.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Machines, large and small-from an electric chair to a cell phone-are the inspiration for this cleverly conceived but uneven debut collection of 10 stories. Exploring the ways in which machines mediate human relationships, Arvin invests his stories' gadgets with heavy metaphorical significance. In "Electric Fence," the eponymous barrier serves as a symbol of alienation and greed, separating a woman from the woods she played in as a child. In "The Prototype," a man steals a new model SUV to impress an ex-girlfriend who likes trucks. The title story tells of the electrocution of Topsy, a man-killing elephant put to death at Coney Island in 1903, but is largely focused on the family of Topsy's final victim, a drunk who fed the elephant a lit cigarette, igniting the animal's rage. Here, as in many of the stories, Arvin paints his characters with broad strokes ("Fielding was a drinker, however, and when he drank his face became red"; "Despite Fielding's drinking binges, it was evident that Emma loved him very much"). In his strongest efforts, he links material objects and human emotions with a lighter touch. In the insightful and tender "Commemorating," a couple vacations on a beach in Florida that is stormed by marines in a routine but startling exercise. Shortly thereafter, the narrator's wife disappears. Ignorant of the abandonment, an ad man who was also on the beach annually sends the narrator commemorative junk-coffee mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers-inadvertently marking the dissolution of his marriage. Arvin, a former engineer, strikes a rich cultural vein, but has yet to smoothly mesh machine lore and fluent storytelling. (Jan. 28) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ten debut stories that draw most of their inspiration from the author’s background in engineering and then a stint working in product development for the Ford Motor Company. "But when he mentioned engineering, his old man was incredulous. He said in a mock-gentle tone, ‘But, Duke, how can you be an engineer when you’re always breaking things?’ " Engineering becomes the controlling metaphor here: if characters work together or fail to do so, it’s usually connected to the machines around them and to the thinking and history that brought them into being. The title story is a quasi-historical account of the lighting of Luna Park and the subsequent electrocution of an elephant named Topsy, while in "What They Teach you in Engineering School," the progress of engineering technology measures the educational distance between a father and son even as they both realize, after a sudden trauma, that they’re all either of them has. The final piece ("Aeronautics") is another history of early aeronauts, the warriors who made war three-dimensional, and made balloons weapons as surely as men or muskets are weapons. "Telescope" is a single sentence short-short that plays with the engineering of sentences; and when a prototype SUV breaks down in backwater Michigan ("The Prototype"), it’s a chance for a local mechanic to fool its fish-out-of-water engineers and possibly engineer for himself a lost love. While Arvin’s prose often centers on the inner workings of things on the near-mechanical level ("Instead he sat frozen and hyperaware of himself—of the noise of his breath, the twitch of his toes against his shoes, the clutch of the muscles in his chest"), the emotions are always real, enlivened by thecontext that gives them life and shape. One wonders why only one of these stories has been published before, and what’s likely to happen when this author shifts to a longer form that will allow his vision the breadth it really needs to develop and grow. Accomplished and promising.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142002568
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
01/28/2003
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.67(d)

What People are Saying About This

Stewart O'Nan
Nick Arvin is dauntless as a craftsman and fearless in his pursuit of a good tale.
Chris Offutt
The prose is direct, the wisdom is earned, and the stories very fine indeed.
John Burnham Schwartz
...a wonderful, surprising, and - yes - illuminating debut.

Meet the Author

Nick Arvin was born and raised in Michigan, received a degree in engineering from Stanford, and spent three years in product development at the Ford Motor Company before leaving to earn his MFA in Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop. He has recently been awarded a Michener Grant, and his stories have been published in The Black Warrior Review.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

In the Electric Eden 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I teach short-story writing, and I've had my students read this book because it shows that there is still a way to 'make it new' in the story form. Arvin's stories, all of them, have nice surprises in form or content. He is not satisfied with cliches or overused word or character packages. His historical pieces don't smack of research, but present a complex world with compelling characters. The stories are not of interest to solely writers; they're compelling to anyone who cares about the human heart. I look forward to reading his novel, Articles of War, which I've heard is coming out from Doubleday in January 2005.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I normally don't write reviews, but Mr. Arvin's book of stories really struck a nerve for me. His stories, although sometimes a little dark, are unforgettable. His ability to blend historical facts with strange details makes you believe that these stories actually happened. I laughed out loud when I read "Two Thousand Germans in Frankenmuth"....