WITH ALL THE hot young talent muscling its way onto bookstore shelves these days, it's good to see Leon Rooke keeping pace with a collection of typically delightful short fiction. Who Do You Love? (McClelland & Stewart, 200 pages, $16.99 paper) presents 26 examples of Rooke-ian art at its finest. Whether it's the wacky takeoff on assertiveness training in "The People in the Trees", or the stream-of-consciousness sexual mismating in "LR Loves GL," or the title story's child's-eye critique of motherhood, you can count on revealingly oblique points of view and compellingly polyrhythmic narratives as givens in these otherwise unpredictable tales.
Voices are paramount here: compulsively fascinating voices as seductive as the cries of sideshow barkers, voices that lure us into strange worlds and show us bizarre things. The showing is important, too - as in the venerable adage "Don't just tell, show" -since it is the transformation of psychic energy into physical reality that usually sparks Rooke's epiphanies. Once in a while his voices become so enraptured with their own sonorities that they forget to put substantive flesh on structural bone, but such occasions tend to be as short-lived as they are infrequent. Who Do You Love? is vintage Rooke, and that's about as good as it gets in the finewriting department.