Exile Editions in Toronto has just published Leon Rooke’s new story collection Wide World in Celebration and Sorrow. Numéro Cinq was lucky enough to publish one of the stories from the book earlier this year — “Heidegger, Floss, Elfride, and the Cat”. Here’s what I wrote about the story:
Leon Rooke is an old and dear friend. He was in my head long before I met him because of his books, Shakespeare’s Dog in particular in those days, a novel that has stuck with me as a license and an inspiration — William Shakespeare as observed by his dog (who is telling the story), a brilliant book, a tour de force of point of view construction, an example of how literature thrives by making things strange. I put Leon in Best Canadian Stories regularly (as often as Alice Munro) over the decade I edited that anthology. I’ve reviewed his books at least a half-dozen times. I wrote an essay about his (also brilliant, eerie, and wonderful) novel, A Good Baby, which you can find in my book of essays, Attack of the Copula Spiders. Rooke was born in North Carolina but lives in Toronto. He has an actor’s voice and presence and is an amazing performer of his own work. He’s also a painter — we have been lucky enough to publish images of four of his paintings on NC.
In “Heidegger, Floss, Elfride, and the Cat” Leon Rooke gives us Heidegger with his pants down (metaphorically), straining to compose the impenetrable prose of Being and Time while shuttling to and from his lover’s house and fending off the jealous and passive-aggressive intrusions of his long-suffering wife (I have inserted photographs of the real Heidegger and Elfride below). All this is relayed through someone named Floss, another one of those odd point of view inventions Rooke is so good at. In this case, Floss might be a philosophy student reading Being and Time in a library or he might be Heidegger, or rather, I think, Heidegger’s Being (which we might have called his Soul in the old days). Heidegger, of course, can’t know Floss, but Floss knows everything about Heidegger. And when the story is done, Floss trundles home to his wife and kids (being Heidegger’s Being is like a job). And, of course, it’s very late and I might have got this wrong.