Leon Rooke Lesley Hogan - Essay

Lesley Hogan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Love Parlour, published in Canada, and The Broad Back of the Angel, published in the United States,] show masterful control of a variety of techniques. Rooke's concern is with love and the importance of personal relationships in an ever-increasingly impersonal society. He writes of desperate situations in a comic and sympathetic manner.

The "For Love of" series or Mexican trilogy presents a beautifully subtle put-down of the American tourist who can think of the Mexicans as the foreigners in their own country. At the same time, the stories are also a much more complex statement about the nature of the banal world in which we, the "norteamericanos", live. (p. 222)

"For Love of Gómez" the third story, is found only in The Love Parlour, which is unfortunate for the American anthology, as this story explains Rooke's reasons for the trilogy. The story expresses more blatantly the subtle anti-Americanism of the other two…. The vain, belligerent, self-worshipping Madeline is contrasted to the patient, accepting, God-fearing Mexican. He is still tied to the land and finds a meaning to his life in that it is part of the divine plan of God. The spoilt brat, bitch-goddess Madeline meets her nemesis in Gómez who struggles to believe his priest's timid boast that God is in every person, even his obnoxious mistress. (p. 223)

The thirteen comic and bizarre stories of The Broad Back of the Angel show Rooke as a gifted story teller who reveals strange and puzzling situations. (p. 224)

Rooke probes our innermost feelings about love and death in a sensitive manner that is at once both humorous and tender. He maintains a delicate balance between the realms of reality and fantasy which gives his stories their double impact of strangeness and familiarity. (p. 225)

Lesley Hogan, "Book Reviews: 'The Love Parlour' and 'The Broad Back of the Angel'," in The Canadian Fiction Magazine (copyright © 1979 by The Canadian Fiction Magazine), Nos. 30-31, 1979, pp. 222-25.