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The Happiness of Others by Leon Rooke  

The Happiness of Others brings together the best stories from Rooke’s first two books published in Canada, The Love Parlour (Oberon, 1977) and Cry Evil (Oberon, 1980), both now out of print, with a selection of stories from The Broad Back of the Angel (Fiction Collective, 1977) which was never available in this country.

At the centre of this collection is the novella ‘The Street of Moons’, which, as Rooke writes in the introduction, ‘takes as its point of departure from that particularly American, particularly nasty sensibility which regards all countries, especially Latin-American ones, as adjuncts of their own property, and their people as second-class citizens who ought to be speaking English.’ And as Russell Banks comments, ‘It’s when he’s funny ... which he often is, that he’s at his most dangerous.... He’s a writer with a voice so sharp and personal that he changes your life while you’re busy laughing at it.’

Review quote

‘This -- and every -- collection from Rooke reminds me of one of those omelets people make for themselves on Saturday mornings. Once folded and eased onto the plate, it’s not necessarily the prettiest thing to look at, but it is full of good things, so full in fact that odd bits of onions, red pepper and ham squeeze out. That’s the way it is with Rooke. He doesn’t have the lightest touch, but he is generous. There is never a bland mouthful in his stories.’

—Canadian Book Review Annual

Review quote

‘Rooke’s vision is Manichaean, melodramatic, exaggerated, and sometimes intentionally cartoonish. At its root, it is pure antithesis -- angels against devils. This formal opposition, though, is the engine of his furious style. Leon Rooke doesn’t write like any of those precious minimalists or k-mart realists cluttering the literary marketplace these days. He is the high-priest of maximalist panache, the standard-bearer for a hyper-rhetoric that is at once strange, eccentric, and beautiful.’

—Douglas Glover, Books in Canada

Unpublished endorsement

‘Leon Rooke’s novels are wondrous enough for anyone’s taste, but his stories are wondrous strange. In the last two decades his literally hundreds of stories have made him into one of the very few writers the rest of us have to read in order to know what the short story form can and cannot do, for he works way out there in terra incognita mapping limits. Beyond this, he can break your heart in half all at once, like a kindly assassin, or chop it to bits with a dozen swift, sure strokes. He’s a writer with a black belt in portraying the small daily tragedies that break bones and leave no visible wounds. It’s when he’s funny, however, which he often is, that he’s most dangerous. Like Stanley Elkin and Donald Barthelme, he’s a writer with a voice so sharp and personal that he changes your life while you’re busy laughing at it.’

—Russell Banks


Leon Rooke is an energetic and prolific storyteller whose writing is characterized by inventive language, experimental form and an extreme range of characters with distinctive voices. He has written a number of plays for radio and stage and produced numerous collections of short stories. It is his novels, however, that have received the most critical acclaim. Fat Woman (1980) was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and won the Paperback Novel of the Year Award. Shakespeare’s Dog won the Governor General’s Award in 1983 and toured as a play as far afield as Barcelona and Edinburgh. A Good Baby was made into a feature film. Rooke founded the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival in 1989. In 2007, Rooke was made a member of the Order of Canada. Other awards include the Canada/Australia prize, the W. O. Mitchell Award, the North Carolina Award for Literature and two ReLits (for short fiction and poetry). In 2012, he was the winner of the Gloria Vanderbilt Carter V. Cooper Fiction Award. He lives in Toronto.

For more information please visit the Author’s website »

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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FICTION / Short Stories

ISBN-13: 9780889841253

Publication Date: 1991-08-30

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 260

Price: $12.95