From the electrocution of Topsy the Elephant at Coney Island in 1903 to the rekindling relationship of two high school sweethearts in a stolen SUV, each story in Nick Arvin's remarkable first collection reveals a world where people struggle against their own shortcomings as time and technology move inexorably forward. With great intelligence, warmth and sly humor, Arvin explores how technology shapes the way we interact with one another and how we experience a world governed by it. With awe and sympathy, he exposes our human limitations despite our apparent advancements-marking both how far we've come and how much farther we need to go. This powerful voice in fiction is not to be missed.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
The Electric Eden 1
What They Teach You in Engineering School 23
Electric Fence 59
Radio Ads 93
The Prototype 117
Two Thousand Germans in Frankenmuth 137
Take Your Child to Work 151
The Accident 211
Armistice Day 243
Author Biography 267
What People are Saying About This
Nick Arvin is dauntless as a craftsman and fearless in his pursuit of a good tale.
The prose is direct, the wisdom is earned, and the stories very fine indeed.
...a wonderful, surprising, and - yes - illuminating debut.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Many of our best novelists began by writing short stories in writing groups or workshops. Nick Arvin followed that path too, and published IN THE ELECTRIC EDEN, a collection of ten stories, many of which show, either directly or indirectly, his background in engineering and a curiosity about how things work. But the most common theme in all of these stories is the mystery of the human mind and how it works. "Prototype" is a curious story of a stunted cautious life and unrequited love. "Aeronautics" deals with the use of emerging scientific - engineering - discoveries for death and destruction, during the American Civil War, in this case. "Take Your Child to Work" was the piece I found most interesting - about a divorced engineer, his ex-wife and the petty ways they try to get back at each other, even to using their young daughter to cause embarrassment and pain. Arvin's first book is perhaps a bit uneven in its selections, but overall it is an absorbing look at that overused cliche, 'the human condition,' showing the author to be an astute observer of same.IN THE ELECTRIC EDEN was a springboard to even better things for Nick Arvin, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. His first novel, ARTICLES OF WAR, was much praised, and deservedly so. His most recent book, THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST, continued Arvin's development as a writer. I'm glad I finally read this first book. It was a kind of a glimpse into the early developmental stages of a young man who has become a fine writer.
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.
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"....