Leon Rooke Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Leon Rooke is considered one of Canada’s most innovative and most influential writers. He was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, a rural area whose natives, though largely uneducated, had a gift for narrative. Their colorful language and the cadences of their sentences would still be reflected in Rooke’s prose, even after he had spent decades in Canada.

Rooke had not intended to go to college, much less become a writer, until his high school graduation day, when a teacher observed that he came from too poor a family ever to amount to much. Rooke promptly enrolled at Mars Hill College. Two years later, he transferred to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill for undergraduate and later for graduate studies, interrupted briefly from 1958 to 1960, when he served with an Army infantry unit in Alaska.

Rooke was already establishing his reputation as a gifted short-story writer. One of his stories appeared in the anthology Prize Stories 1965: The O. Henry Awards (1965), and in 1968, his first collection, Last One Home Sleeps in the Yellow Bed, was published by the Louisiana State University Press. He was also gaining experience in teaching and in editing. From 1965 to 1966, he was writer in residence at UNC-Chapel Hill, and from 1967 to 1969, he edited the newspaper Anvil in Durham, North Carolina.

On May 25, 1969, he married Constance Raymond, a doctoral candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill....

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bauer, Douglas. “What Would We Do Without Evil?” The New York Times Book Review 140 (September 30, 1990): 12. Compares Rooke’s handling of pure evil in A Good Baby to Flannery O’Connor’s views, revealed in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” A thoughtful review.

Bemrose, John. “A Canine’s Search for Poetic Justice.” Maclean’s Magazine 96, no. 20 (May 16, 1983): 44. Calls the “pseudo-Elizabethan” language in which Shakespeare’s Dog is written a brilliant reinvention. Praises the author’s characterization of Hooker, who combines superhuman wisdom with all the basic instincts of a dog.

Charyn, Jerome. “Trotting Around Stratford.” The New York Times Book Review 88 (May 29, 1983): 11, 16. Insists that Shakespeare’s Dog is more than just a funny novel; it succeeds because in it Rooke has again demonstrated his ability to enter another creature and to present the world through its eyes.

Gorjup, Branko. “Perseus and the Mirror: Leon Rooke’s Imaginary Worlds.” World Literature Today: A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma 73, no. 2 (Spring, 1999): 269-274. An extensive analysis of Rooke’s work, emphasizing the theme of “divided reality.” Rooke is described as a key figure in the movement to make Canadian literature multicultural rather than nationalistic.