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.
"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 that 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
In this kaleidoscope of fictions, 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
Amin's characters are clumsy in love, akward socially, and achingly sincere. Except when they're not. Theres 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. Armin Wiebe is a national treature and I am heista koppin love with this book.
—Susie Moloney, author of A Dry Spell, The Dwelling, and The Thirteen
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. Do the styles these Gutenthal stories are written in enhance or hinder your reading experience?
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. 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?
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?
11. How do these stories make you feel about your own stories?
The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz
12. In the story ‘And Besides God Made Poison Ivy’, what questions are hinted at but not answered?
13. What do you notice about the narrative voice of the first five stories in this section?
14. How would you identify the era or time period of the stories in this section?
15. What are the dilemmas Suschkje faces in ‘Engel Bengel’ and ‘Mary’s Creek’, and how does she handle them? Are her actions credible?
16. In ‘Moonlight Rehearsal’ the narrative voice changes from the previous five stories. How does that affect your reading experience?
17. How would you characterize Suschkje? Kjrayel Kehler? Beethoven Blatz?
18. What do you see in the relationship between Suschkje and Kjrayel?
19. How about the relationship between Suschkje and Blatz?
20. How would you describe Olfert’s world and his place in it?
21. What links these five stories?
22. What strikes you about Olfert’s relationship with women?
23. What are these last two pieces about?
24. Are these final pieces stories or poems? What makes you think this?
General questions about the book
25. Would you recommend this book to other readers? Why or why not?
26. What role does music play in these stories?
27. Comment about Armin Wiebe’s use of language. Does the inclusion of “non-English” words enhance or hinder your reading experience?
28. What wines and finger food would complement a discussion of Armin’s Shorts?
Armin Wiebe is the recipient of the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. He has four published novels, one play, and his short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. A teacher for many years, Armin Wiebe is now retired and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.