“I dream of things that never were,”
September 17, 2016 6:31 PM   Subscribe

W.P. Kinsella, author of ‘Shoeless Joe,’ dead at 81 [Maclean's Magazine] W.P. Kinsella, the B.C.-based author of “Shoeless Joe,” the award-winning novel that became the film “Field of Dreams,” has died at 81. His literary agency confirms the writer had a doctor-assisted death on Friday in Hope, B.C. The agency did not provide details about Kinsella’s health.

- W.P. Kinsella on Holden Caulfield and Writing Salinger [Maclean's Magazine]
Q. So did you start out deciding to put Salinger in your novel, or to use the name Ray Kinsella from his story?
A. I said, What would happen if I used Salinger? Then I thought, Well, I’d better know as much about him as I possibly can—maybe there’s some interesting details I can work into the book. I re-read everything of his just looking for some ideas. I discovered he had used the name Kinsella twice in his work. Richard Kinsella in The Catcher in the Rye, who is the garrulous friend of Holden, and Ray Kinsella, from this uncollected short story.

Q. Salinger was obviously a major cultural figure. You’ve had the experience of being a widely read novelist, quite famous. Do you think the era when writers of fiction can occupy that sort of place is coming to an end?
I don’t think it’s as possible as it was thirty or forty or fifty years ago. Somebody said Catcher in the Rye has sold 60 million copies, which is phenomenal. The publishing industry today is just—I couldn’t break into the market today if I was just starting out. The publishing industry is down to a few dozen mainly adventure and romance writers. There’s still some academic fiction out there, but it has an incredibly small audience. Nobody really cares about it.
- "Car accident ends W.P. Kinsella's writing career" [The E-Carillon]
CARILLON: What can you tell us about the car accident in 1997?
Well, I was walking down the sidewalk and a fellow backed out of the driveway and hit me. A couple of steps forward and I would have been killed. Actually, he just brushed me and I went down on my tailbone and then on my head.

CARILLON: What effects are you suffering from it?
I just lost my sense of concentration. A couple of times, I've been feeling very hopeful that I was going to get it back and I¹ll do a day or two of editing, but I just can't get back at it at all. You probably read the piece in Saturday Night. I was very hopeful when I did that interview. I had actually done a couple days of editing and was feeling quite good, but I've done virtually nothing since then. I don't know - I've kind of gone from being a Type A to a Type B personality. I've always been on the edge - just go, go, go and now I¹m not doing anything and I don't care. (laughs)

CARILLON: One attribute of a Type A personality is a quick temper - one thing for which you have always been known. How has that changed?
I'm not nearly as angry as I used to be, which is too bad because that¹s what drives you - or certainly what drove me. The thrill of saying I told you so works very well. No, that¹s sort of gone by the boards also.
- W.P. Kinsella's Fields of Lost Dreams [Edmonton Journal]
“He was 53, and he’d paid his dues as a writer and teacher. He’d been prolific — by the time I interviewed him, he’d published a dozen books, one novel and a bunch of short story collections. Many of his short stories were set in what was then known as Hobbema. His young Cree characters, he told me, were inspired by some of the people he met while he was driving a taxi, trying to get his break as a writer. Now, his first novel was being turned into a big Hollywood movie, starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster and Ray Liotta, and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. The book, he told me, was about his love for baseball. It was about exploring the difficult relationships between sons and fathers. And it was, he told me, a love gift to his wife, on whom, he told me, he’d based the character played by Amy Madigan in the film, Kevin Costner’s patient, loving wife. His wife, he told me, believed and trusted in him, despite all his oddities and obsessions, just as the wife in the novel and film did.”
- An Annotated Bibliography of His Writings on Baseball
- Bill Kinsella Scrabble Tournament Results
posted by Fizz (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Fizz at 6:32 PM on September 17, 2016

posted by Etrigan at 6:38 PM on September 17, 2016

I had WP Kinsella as a writing workshop instructor at UVic in 1993. He was crusty, and didn't really enjoy leading the workshop, unfortunately. He had attended UVic in the early 70's, and Bill Valgardson taught him back then.

Apparently Kinsella was managing a pizza restaurant or something, and was writing in his free time. He showed up at UVic with a stack of manuscripts.

That was the lesson in UVic Creative Writing in the 80's and 90's (at that time the top writing school in Canada): keep writing. Pour your heart into it. Which Kinsella did. Which helped him become a success.

In 1997 Kinsella was hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk (the car was backing out of a driveway; my own son was nearly killed in the same way). Kinsella hit his head, suffered a concussion that deprived him of his drive to write, and also lost his sense of taste and smell. I remember reading an interview with him from around 2007 where he said he hated eating now. Everything tasted like paste.

Kinsella was almost certainly an asshole back then, but he also was the real deal: a published Canadian author, UVic Creative Writing grad who made it big.
posted by My Dad at 6:40 PM on September 17, 2016 [12 favorites]

⚾️ :(
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:57 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I visited the ball field in Dyersville, Iowa as a kid. Still have some of the dirt from the infield.

If you want Kinsella but way more trippy while still involving baseball, dig on The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
posted by zerolives at 7:14 PM on September 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

posted by HuronBob at 7:21 PM on September 17, 2016

posted by epj at 7:41 PM on September 17, 2016

posted by ursus_comiter at 8:08 PM on September 17, 2016

Field of Dreams was just one of those father / son things for me and my dad.

posted by dudemanlives at 8:24 PM on September 17, 2016

Good for him, sad for us. Godspeed, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:41 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I became aware of W.P. Kinsella, like many others, when I saw "Field of Dreams". My father died in a car accident when I was 6 months old, I have no memories of him. The final scene in Field of Dreams was a fantasy I never had the opportunity to experience...meeting my dad...

A few weeks ago I was in session with a 9 year old, he struggled with anxiety, he was in conflict with his dad, who was also his baseball coach, they couldn't work out the different aspects of those relationships. He was telling me that he had watched a movie over the weekend, "Field of Dreams", and how it had caused him to come to the realization that his dad wouldn't live forever. I told him about how the movie impacted on me, having never known my father.

Two weeks ago I gave him a copy of "Shoeless Joe".

Kinsella's narrative of father and son relationships in that story is powerful and, I suspect, has been an important part of the lives of many of us, with or without fathers.
posted by HuronBob at 9:04 PM on September 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

posted by litlnemo at 9:12 PM on September 17, 2016


I attended a bookstore/coffee shop reading by Kinsella about 20 years ago when I was 19. Kinsella read from Iowa and a bit from Dance Me Outside and was then to take questions, he was quickly tired of the questions and announced "Why don't I just tell stories?" and so he did, for another half-hour, crazy made-up tall-tales that were more impressive to me than the readings had been, I have thought of that evening many, many times and Kinsella is now one of my top ten authors, I am going to start Dance Me Outside again before bed tonight, RIP.
posted by Cosine at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

posted by evilDoug at 9:56 PM on September 17, 2016

Shoeless Joe is such a lovely and charming book and I'm a better person for having read it. RIP

posted by triggerfinger at 10:22 PM on September 17, 2016

I haven't read Shoeless Joe, but I do love the movie. The scene where Doc steps out of the field to help, then walks away and Shoeless Joe calls after him 'hey Rookie! You were good' makes me cry every time.
posted by taterpie at 10:55 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't have time for Shoeless Joe or for some reason think you don't like baseball, take 15 minutes to read WP Kinsella's "The Thrill of the Grass" [PDF].

His death makes me very sad; his work makes me very happy.
posted by chavenet at 1:48 AM on September 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

say it aint so
posted by entropicamericana at 4:19 AM on September 18, 2016

I attended a reading by Kinsella in my home town of Louisville, Kentucky many years ago. In the copy of "Shoeless Joe" he signed for me, he wrote "Go the distance." That's been my motto ever since.
posted by Gelatin at 7:01 AM on September 18, 2016

Shoeless Joe is one of my favorite books. Kinsella had a real voice and his stories are authentic and unique. And they have heart.

posted by theora55 at 7:16 AM on September 18, 2016

I love that book so.

RIP, Sir.
posted by jonmc at 7:32 AM on September 18, 2016

I kind of loved how several of his friends interviewed on CBC Radio about his death described him as crusty, abrasive, difficult, garrulous, and you could hear their grins widening as the talked. Kind of a fitting tribute. He certainly was blunt, and at times controversial, defending his books about flawed characters from a fictional Alberta reserve when they were criticised as racist.

I somehow acquired his short story collection Alligator Report in highschool ... honestly I probably bought it for the cover art and read it repeatedly.
posted by chapps at 9:59 AM on September 18, 2016

I am reading "House of David" now and it makes me think of Kinsella's stuff.

RIP, sir; I love the creations you labored so to produce.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:21 AM on September 18, 2016

posted by genehack at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2016

Every man of a certain age will cry at the catch-with-Dad scene. I'm that age and it leaves me a wreck. But some of that is due to the scene before that always gets me. You know the scene: Ray and his brother-in-law are fighting, Karin gets mixed up in it, falls down and starts choking. In the movie, Archie Graham sees this, realizes what must be done, comes in from the outfield and pauses, ever so briefly, before crossing out of the playing field into the stands. It's well shot, giving the audience a moment to appreciate what Moonlight's giving up. And then he crosses the line, becomes Doc Graham and saves the day.

But it's not that way in the book. In the book, Ray looks up and Archie is already on his way in from right field. And as he runs in, he transforms into Doc Graham. He crosses the threshold "without a backward glance" not as Archie, but as Doc, already committed to his work and his life. It's a tremendous comment on nostalgia, and how we can long for things we thought meant the world when we were 18, but that they pale in comparison with what we do, with what we are, for the long stretch of our lifetime.
posted by aureliobuendia at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I learned a lot about writing from reading lots and lots of WP Kinsella books in high school. RIP.
posted by escabeche at 12:35 PM on September 18, 2016

Need to find my copy of The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. I remember
it existing out of time and crying when I reached the end.
posted by dubwisened at 7:56 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Would have been nice if he could have seen one more World Series.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:06 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Kevin Street at 3:38 PM on September 19, 2016

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescat in pace.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2016

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