Showcasing a selection of stories from Armin Wiebe's 30 year writing career, Armin's Shorts features tales from the familiarly fictitious Mennonite community of Gutenthal, re-imagined origin stories from the Tlįchǫ of the subarctic, and flights of pure fantasy set in modern day Winnipeg.
Funny enough to make your "grandmother sit up in her black trough coffin and laugh," and so gut wrenching you'll feel "that clunk in the heart, and that wrunsch in the stomach," master story teller, Armin Wiebe, presents a veritable smorgasbord of short stories that cover the gamut of human experience with a wry sense of humour, a stern sense of justice, and a warm and tender heart.
In this kaleidoscope of fictions, Armin Wiebe moves back and forth across borders--from the Flat German world of Gutenthal to the subarctic of Little Kollouch, from the wise foolishness of Koadel Kehler to the haunting poetry of "Go Bed to Yellowknife." Readers will laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time, as Wiebe illuminates, again and again, the humanity we share amidst the shattered fragments of the worlds we inhabit.
Magdalene Redekop, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto
Some of Armin Wiebe's finest writing has been about the constrained, measured rural world of the Mennonite farm. In Armin's Shorts, he revisits the people and situations that he does so well, and turns the ordinary lives of the men, women, and the children into emotion poetry. The stories will make you laugh to tears and cry real tears, often in the same sentence. This is a body of work, comprising everything from the mournful to the hilarious.
The characters are clumsy in love, awkward socially, and achingly sincere. Except when they're not. There's real anger and pain in these stories, and Armin manages to make heartbreak and yearning so damned attractive. I don't think Barn Dance will ever leave me.
As a bonus, there are a handful of stories of the First People in the tradition of Wiebe’s novel Tatsea, and they're as touching and enraging as they are beautiful to read. Wiebe’s a master of character moving lightly and artfully between worlds with such skill as to be seamless.
Armin Wiebe is a national treasure and I am heista kopp in love with this book.
Susie Moloney, author of A Dry Spell, The Dwelling, and The Thirteen
This collection serves as a good introduction to the fictional worlds that Armin has created over his thirty-year writing career. It also serves as a testament to his willingness to branch out and develop new ideas, explore new voices and tell new tales.
Lonnie Smetana, The Winnipeg Review
In Armin’s Shorts [...] coveting is painful, funny, wistful, melancholy and always endlessly captivating.
Deanna Smid, Faith Today
Wiebe's range as a writer is evident in this collection. He deftly reveals the foibles of Mennonite culture and human nature—the contradictions, the ignorance—but also the principled commitment, intelligence, imagination, and courage of characters navigating difficult circumstances.
Roger Groening, Rhubarb Magazine
From the Gutenthal Galaxy
1) From reading the stories in ‘From the Gutenthal Galaxy’ how would you describe the community of Gutenthal?
2) What themes or motifs do these Gutenthal stories have in common?
3) Two of the stories feature Oata as a character. What do you make of her?
4) Water is a feature in three of the Gutenthal stories. What significance does this have?
5) What is your impression of Gutenthal men as presented in these stories?
6) While four of the stories in the first section are written in a first person voice, the stories in this section are written in third person. What difference does that make?
7) In her cover blurb, Susie Moloney says, “I don’t think ‘Barn Dance’ will ever leave me.” What characteristics of the story might have led her to say that?
8) Do the styles these Gutenthal stories are written in enhance or hinder your reading experience?
9) Why might this section be labeled ‘Beginnings’?
10) In the stories ‘The Little Kollouch’ and ‘A Woman Who Married Yamozha’, are the first person narrators convincing as women? Why or why not?
11) What do the three stories in this grouping suggest about the importance of stories and their role when cultures meet?
12) How do these stories make you feel about your own stories?
The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz
13) In the story ‘And Besides God Made Poison Ivy’, what questions are hinted at but not answered?
14) What do you notice about the narrative voice of the first five stories in this section?
15) How would you identify the era or time period of the stories in this section?
16) What are the dilemmas Suschkje faces in ‘Engel Bengel’ and ‘Mary’s Creek’, and how does she handle them? Are her actions credible?
17) In ‘Moonlight Rehearsal’ the narrative voice changes from the previous five stories. How does that affect your reading experience?
18) How would you characterize Suschkje? Kjrayel Kehler? Beethoven Blatz?
19) What do you see in the relationship between Suschkje and Kjrayel?
20) How about the relationship between Suschkje and Blatz?
21) How would you describe Olfert’s world and his place in it?
22) What links these five stories?
23) What strikes you about Olfert’s relationship with women?
24) What are these last two pieces about?
25) Are these final pieces stories or poems? What makes you think this?
General questions about the book
26) Would you recommend this book to other readers? Why or why not?
27) What role does music play in these stories?
28) Comment about Armin Wiebe’s use of language. Does the inclusion of “non-English” words enhance or hinder your reading experience?
29) What wines and finger food would complement a discussion of Armin’s Shorts?
Turnstone Press Ltd.
206-100 Arthur Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada