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  • White Gloves of the Doorman: The Works of Leon Rooke
  • Marta Dvorak (bio)
Branko Gorjup , editor. White Gloves of the Doorman: The Works of Leon Rooke Exile. xvi, 442. $34.95

Leon Rooke is one of Canada's most innovative as well as prolific writers, the author of seventeen short-story collections and numerous uncollected stories, as well as novels, poetry, and plays. While his work has been translated into many languages and has been the object of critical focus in Europe since the 1960s, and despite the Governor-General's Award for Shakespeare's Dog (1984), it has received less attention on the part of Canadian academia - more interested, Branko Gorjup implies, in social realism than in language games, or writing often deemed irreverent at best, or provocative, even subversive, at worst, and - supreme discomfort - not easily classifiable (parody, pastiche, satire, fable, fantasy, Gothic, surrealism, metafiction, performance?). Gorjup's book, which brings together a broad range of critical articles as well as reviews, interviews, and personal reminiscences by fellow writers ranging from John Metcalfe to Anne [End Page 397] Michaels and Douglas Glover, provides a reassessment designed to ensure or consolidate Rooke's entry into the Canadian literary canon. What scholars will find particularly valuable in this book is the remarkably complete, meticulously organized bibliography which assembles, alongside the large body of primary works by Rooke (including stage productions, television documentaries, sound recordings, and even conference papers), an exhaustive range of reviews, interviews, scholarly articles, translations, prefaces, and anthologies, followed by a most useful name, subject, and title index.

Gorjup has structured the book clearly in six sections. These begin with a chapter of personal - and, as with Lawrence Naumoff, often delightfully playful - essays which examine Rooke's emergence on the literary scene and attempt to come to terms with his elusive narrative voice. There follow sections devoted to the critical context, the short stories and then the novels, which in turn are flanked by conversations with the writer and, finally, the bibliographical section. Alongside entirely original material, the book incorporates previously published scholarship, either reproduced faithfully, or transformed for the purposes of this readership. Among the earliest, already heuristic, pieces (1980, 1984) are two by one of the first Canadian academics to engage with Rooke's production: Russell Brown. At the later end, we find Russell Banks's foreword to the French translation of Rooke's most recent novel, The Fall of Gravity (2000). At the forefront of the strong European contributions is an essay by Simone Vauthier, a French pioneer in Canadian and Commonwealth literatures renowned for her groundbreaking textual analyses. Her close reading of Rooke's 'The Birth Control King of the Upper Volta' initially appeared in the French Journal of the Short Story in English (1985) before being reprinted by Anansi in her collected essays Reverberations: Explorations in the Canadian Short Story (1993). Other contributions from French academia include the translation by Alexander Baird of an article by Danièle Pitavy-Souques which had appeared in a special issue of the French journal RANAM devoted to the English-Canadian short story (1987), as well as a piece by Michèle Kaltemback in which she conflates two earlier close readings published in the journal Commonwealth Essays and Studies (1989) and the volume Image et récit: literature(s) et arts visuels du Canada, edited by J.M. Lacroix, S. Vauthier, and H. Ventura (1993). The original material produced for this book ranges from Janice Kulyk Keefer's excellent investigation of Rooke ' s generic hybridity and Mike Matthews's study of Rooke's satirical pyrotechnics (notably in the story collection How I Saved the Province) to Keath Fraser's heuristic discussion of a Rookean paradox: the commonplace and the idiom as rhetorical building blocks for uncommon language - which Fraser judiciously distinguishes from what Kazuo Ishiguro has deplored as the 'linguistic grayness of "international" fiction,' designed to avoid what is distinctive and thus untranslatable. Among the other [End Page 398] noteworthy pieces, readers will find Neil Besner's playful exploration of Rooke's performative strategy in The Fall of Gravity. Besner's mimicry-cum-analysis is a performance in its own right ('imitatio is to performatio...


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pp. 397-399
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