Authors: W. P. Kinsella

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Canadian short-story writer and novelist

Author Works

Short Fiction:

Dance Me Outside, 1977

Scars, 1978

Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, 1980

Born Indian, 1981

The Moccasin Telegraph, and Other Stories, 1983

The Thrill of the Grass, 1984

The Alligator Report, 1985

The Fencepost Chronicles, 1986

Red Wolf, Red Wolf, 1987

The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt, 1988 (also known as Go the Distance, 1995)

The Miss Hobbema Pageant, 1989

The Dixon Cornbelt League, and Other Baseball Stories, 1993

Brother Frank’s Gospel Hour, and Other Stories, 1994

The Secret of the Northern Lights, 1998

Japanese Baseball, and Other Stories, 2000

Long Fiction:

Shoeless Joe, 1982

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, 1986

Box Socials, 1991

The Winter Helen Dropped By, 1995

If Wishes Were Horses, 1996

Magic Time, 1998

Drama:

The Thrill of the Grass: Three Plays About Baseball, pb. 1988

Poetry:

Rainbow Warehouse, 1989 (with Ann Knight)

Even at This Distance, 1994 (with Knight)

Nonfiction:

Two Spirits Soar: The Art of Allen Sapp, the Inspiration of Allan Gonor, 1990

A Series for the World: Baseball’s First International Fall Classic, 1992 (with Furman Bisher and Dave Perkins)

Edited Texts:

Diamonds Forever: Reflections from the Field, the Dugout, and the Bleachers, 1997

Baseball Fantastic: Stories, 2000

Biography

Born May 25, 1935, on a farm west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, William (Bill) Patrick Kinsella was the son of a contractor, John Matthew, and a printer, Olive Mary (nee Elliot). The fact that Kinsella did not attend school until he was ten years old is characteristic of a lifelong delay in getting formal education. Kinsella did not start college until he was thirty-five years old. During his early years he worked at a variety of jobs and discovered that he had a gift for writing. At the age of seventeen, he published his first short story but had difficulty getting other stories published. Over the next twenty years, he wrote as many as fifty stories. Although they remained unpublished, the quantity of his output testifies to the ease with which he could write. In 1974 he completed a B.A. in creative writing at University of Victoria and immediately enrolled in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Two years later he not only earned an M.F.A. but also, during his first year, published Dance Me Outside, a collection of short stories about the Cree Nation in Canada. The tribe became one of two major subjects around which Kinsella’s fiction revolves. The other is baseball. In 1982, Kinsella published Shoeless Joe, his first novel and the first of many tales in which Kinsella indulged his love for baseball. The favorable critical response to both volumes launched Kinsella’s writing career. In 1983 he retired from his university job to pursue writing full time.{$I[A]Kinsella, W. P.}{$I[geo]CANADA;Kinsella, W. P.}{$I[tim]1935;Kinsella, W. P.}

Kinsella has been married four times. At twenty-two, he married Myrna Salls on December 28, 1957. The marriage ended in divorce six years later. On September 10, 1965, he married Mildred Irene Clay. The marriage ended in 1978, when he met and married writer Ann Ilene Knight. Over nearly twenty years, the two collaborated on several writing projects, including two books of poetry (Rainbow Warehouse and Even at This Distance). Two years after the marriage ended, Kinsella married Barbara Lynn Turner on March 2, 1999. Kinsella has three daughters, all from his first marriage: Shannon, Lyndsey, and Erin.

In 1997, Kinsella suffered a head injury after he was struck by a car near his home in White Rock, British Columbia. He stopped writing new fiction, though additional books already slated for publication appeared. An avid Scrabble player, he began traveling to Scrabble tournaments throughout North America.

Kinsella describes himself as “an old-fashioned storyteller” who tries “to make people laugh and cry . . . to entertain. If you can then sneak in something profound or symbolic, so much the better.” The secret of fiction writing, he claims, “is to make the dull interesting by imagination and embellishment, and to tone down the bizarre until it is believable. . . . Stories or novels are not about events, but about people that events happen to.”

Critics have praised Kinsella for his ability to take real life and make it into something larger. The term “Magical Realism” fits well for an author whose depictions of reality have a heavy overlay of the fantastic and the surreal. To scholars and critics of American baseball fiction, Kinsella’s major literary contribution is to the mythopoetic vision of the United States as a “field of dreams.” Kinsella uses baseball metaphorically and symbolically as the background for the acting out of the human condition. It is this use of Magical Realism that creates the sense of awe and wonder in the novels such as Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and the collections of short stories The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt and The Dixon Cornbelt League, and Other Baseball Stories. Ironically, Kinsella, a Canadian, has an international readership that identifies strongly with the American Dream embodied in America’s favorite pastime.

His other major subject, presented in a more realistic style, is the Cree Nation, Canada’s largest tribal group, and one of the largest in North America. Kinsella’s writing about the Cree people, beginning with Dance Me Outside, are collected in publications including Scars, Born Indian, and The Moccasin Telegraph, and Other Stories. Critics and book reviewers noted favorably that, unlike earlier writers who were not American Indians, Kinsella portrayed these characters as human beings rather than as sentimental or negative stereotypes.

He has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, and become widely known for his authorship of Shoeless Joe, the source for the film Field of Dreams, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1989. Although his stories seem simple enough, Kinsella’s achievement has been to transform human experience in all its pain and wonder into the stuff of delightful fiction.

BibliographyAitken, Brian. “Baseball as Sacred Doorway in the Writing of W. P. Kinsella.” Aethlon 8 (Fall, 1990): 61-75. Aitken looks at the spiritual aspects of Kinsella’s baseball novels and two of his stories, “Frank Pierce, Iowa” and “K-Mart.” He concludes that Kinsella shows how North Americans can find as much spiritual fulfillment in sports as in formal religion.Cameron, Elspeth. “Diamonds Are Forever.” Saturday Night 101 (August, 1986): 45-47. Cameron shows how most of Kinsella’s fiction centers on adolescent males who, unencumbered by women, pursue quests as if they were knights errant.Horvath, Brooke K., and William J. Palmer. “Three On: An Interview with David Carkeet, Mark Harris, and W. P. Kinsella.” Modern Fiction Studies 33 (Spring, 1987): 183-194. Kinsella explains how he came to write about baseball and his attitude toward literary criticism.Kinsella, W. P. “Interview.” Short Story, n.s. 1 (Fall, 1993): 81-88. Kinsella discusses baseball as the chess of sports and why it serves him so well in his fiction. Talks about the transformation of the book Shoeless Joe into the film Field of Dreams. Discusses those contemporary short-story writers he likes best, his own collections of short stories, and what he thinks the future of short fiction will be.Kinsella, W. P. “W. P. Kinsella, the Super-Natural.” Interview by Sheldon Sunness. Sport 77 (July, 1986): 74. Kinsella discusses his fondness for baseball, his disdain for Canada’s native game of hockey, and his wish to be a major league baseball player in another life.McGimpsey, David. Imagining Baseball: America’s Pastime and Popular Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. A solid chapter on Shoeless Joe, Field of Dreams, and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. Rich source of reference to other writers’ work on Kinsella.Murray, Don. The Fiction of W. P. Kinsella: Tall Tales in Various Voices. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: York Press, 1987. This brief but excellent study provides an overview of Kinsella’s fiction, placing emphasis on the short stories. Murray includes three interviews with Kinsella, a bibliography, and an index.Murray, Don. “A Note on W. P. Kinsella’s Humor.” The International Fiction Review 14, no. 2 (1987): 98-100. Humor is the basic ingredient in Kinsella’s fiction, according to Murray. He argues that anarchy is justified and funny in Kinsella’s works.Westbrook, Deeanne. Ground Rules: Baseball and Myth. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966. An outstanding treatment of Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy against a background of the relationship of baseball fiction to myth.
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