W. P. Kinsella

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

W. P. Kinsella

BornWilliam Patrick Kinsella
(1935-05-25)May 25, 1935
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
DiedSeptember 16, 2016(2016-09-16) (aged 81)
Hope, British Columbia, Canada
Alma mater
GenreSports fiction
SubjectBaseball, First Nations
Notable awards

William Patrick "W. P." Kinsella OC OBC (May 25, 1935 – September 16, 2016) was a Canadian novelist and short story writer, known for his novel Shoeless Joe (1982), which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams in 1989. His work often concerned baseball, First Nations people, and Canadian culture.

Early life[edit]

William Patrick Kinsella was born in Edmonton, Alberta, the son of Irish Canadian parents, Olive Mary (née Elliott/Elliot), a printer, and John Matthew Kinsella, a contractor.[1] He was raised until he was 10 years old at a homestead near Darwell, Alberta, 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of the city, home-schooled by his mother and taking correspondence courses. "I'm one of these people who woke up at age five knowing how to read and write," he says.[2]

When he was ten years old, the family moved to Edmonton. He did not go to school until grade five, attended Parkdale School for junior high, and did not attend university until he was in his mid-30s.[3] Kinsella was barely exposed to literature in school, saying in a 2010 interview, "One Shakespeare play and one J. M. Barrie play was the total literature of my high school years."[citation needed]

Kinsella's literary education in his formative years came from reading and by attending all the plays at high school and any theatrical productions that made it to Edmonton. He also worked in the school library his senior year.[4]

As an adult, he held a variety of jobs in Edmonton, including as a clerk for the government of Alberta and managing a credit bureau. In 1967, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, running a pizza restaurant called Caesar's Italian Village and driving a taxi.

Although he had been writing since he was a child (winning a YMCA contest at age 14), he began taking writing courses at the University of Victoria in 1970, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing there in 1974. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in English at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1978. Before becoming a professional author, he was a professor of English at the University of Calgary.

Literary life[edit]

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Kinsella's literary output primarily consists of two cycles of work dealing with two fictional universes: those dealing with baseball and those depicting the indigenous people of Canada. His first published book was Dance Me Outside (1977), a collection of 17 short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin, who describes life on a First Nations reserve in Kinsella's native Alberta.[5]

A later collection of similar stories, The Fencepost Chronicles, earned Kinsella the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Kinsella was criticized for writing from the point of view of Native people, appropriating their voices. He rejected the criticism on the grounds that a writer has the license to create anything he chooses and called the term "cultural appropriation" the nonsense of Eastern Canadian academics.[6]

These stories use the ineptness of the white bureaucrats on reservations as background, and Kinsella defended the stories, saying, "It's the oppressed and the oppressor that I write about. The way that oppressed people survive is by making fun of the people who oppress them. That is essentially what my Indian stories are all about."[5]

Kinsella also wrote nearly 40 short stories and three novels about baseball. Shoeless Joe (1982), his first novel, blends fantasy and magic realism to tell the story of a poor Iowa farmer who, yielding to voices in his head, builds a baseball field in his cornfield that attracts the spirits of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986), another book blending fantasy and magical realism, recounts an epic baseball game a minor league team played against the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Box Socials (1991), an evocation of life in rural Alberta during the Great Depression and World War II, has a growing boy as its narrator and recounts a local batting hero's hopes of facing a visiting major league pitcher 60 miles away in Edmonton.

Shoeless Joe remains Kinsella's most famous work. The book was mildly controversial for using a living person, the reclusive author J.D. Salinger, as a main character. Kinsella, who had never met him, created a wholly imagined character (aside from his reclusiveness) based on The Catcher in the Rye, a book that had great meaning to him as a young man. To get a feel for Salinger, he reread his body of work but created an imaginary version of the author. "I made sure to make him a nice character so that he couldn't sue me."[7]

In an example of metafiction, he named Shoeless Joe's protagonist Ray Kinsella, a character from Salinger's uncollected story "A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All". Salinger also used the surname Kinsella in The Catcher in the Rye (Holden Caulfield's friend Richard Kinsella, who also shared a name with Ray Kinsella's twin brother in Shoeless Joe).[7]

Known for his litigiousness, Salinger contacted Kinsella's publisher via his attorneys to express outrage over having been portrayed in Shoeless Joe. Kinsella denied that Salinger, as a writer, had any real influence on his own writing, despite rumors to the contrary (some said that Kinsella had actually met Salinger).[4]

Shoeless Joe won Kinsella the prestigious Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship and the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1982. The book garnered good reviews, sold very well, and was made into a popular movie.[citation needed]


W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe was made into the movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner. The movie grossed nearly $65 million in the United States. It helped establish Costner as a star and was later inducted into the National Film Registry.[8]

Kinsella's eight books of short stories about life on reserves were the basis for the 1994 movie Dance Me Outside and CBC television series The Rez, both of which Kinsella considered to be of very poor quality.[9] Fencepost Chronicles won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1987. The short story The Last Pennant Before Armageddon was adapted for the stage by the Live Bait Theater in Chicago in 1990.[citation needed]

Kinsella's short story "Lieberman in Love" was the basis for a short film that won the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in 1996. The Oscar came as a surprise to Kinsella, who, watching the award telecast from home, had no idea the film had been made and released. He was not listed in the film's credits or acknowledged by director Christine Lahti in her acceptance speech. A full-page advertisement ran in Variety apologizing to Kinsella for the error.[9]

Career interruption[edit]

In 1997 Kinsella was involved in a car accident that almost ended his writing career. He was struck by a car while walking and suffered a head injury when he hit the ground. He did not publish another novel for 14 years.

In a 1999 interview with the University of Regina's student newspaper, Kinsella explained that he could no longer write as he had lost his ability to concentrate. The injury also robbed him of his senses of taste and smell. Kinsella said he went from being a Type A personality to Type B. After the accident, he didn't feel like doing the things he had done in his former routine and didn't care. He did write book reviews to keep his name before the public.[10]

Kinsella's 14-year-long hiatus from fiction may also have had economic roots. He was cited as an archetypical victim of changes in the publishing industry during the late 1980s, which accelerated during the 1990s, that made it more difficult for well-regarded "mid-list" writers such as Kinsella to remain in print. Changes to the U.S. tax code effected by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 discouraged publishers from maintaining inventories of titles in their backlists, as they were taxed on warehoused books.[citation needed]

This led to the thinning out of backlists and the more rapid remaindering of books. The publishing industry underwent a wave of consolidation in the 1990s, as publishers were acquired by big communications companies seeking marketing synergy. The new publishing houses poured more capital into higher-paid, best-selling writers and celebrities who could guarantee "hit" books as well as media tie-in novels. Mid-list writers with first-rate reputations but mid-range, non-spectacular sales suffered accordingly as they were ignored by the new conglomerates.[citation needed]

Of the state of the book industry in a 2010 interview with Maclean's Magazine, Kinsella said, "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."[4]

Later years[edit]

On September 1, 2011, Winnipeg, Manitoba's Enfield and Wizenty, a small press specializing in limited-edition hardcover books, released Kinsella's first published work in 13 years, Butterfly Winter. The unpublished manuscript had won the publisher's Colophon Prize the preceding March. The release was backed up by a "modest" book tour, according to the publisher.[11]

The story of Julio and Esteban Pimental, twins whose divine destiny for baseball begins with games of catch in the womb, marks a return to form, combining Kinsella's long-held passions of baseball and magical realism.[12] The University of Toronto Press released a trade hardcover edition on October 1. A short story of Kinsella's by the same title was included in his 1988 collection Red Wolf, Red Wolf, published by Totem Press (Collins Publishers).[citation needed]

A noted tournament Scrabble player, Kinsella became more involved with the game after being disillusioned by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike. He spent his final years in Yale, British Columbia, with his fourth wife, Barbara, occasionally writing articles for various newspapers.


Kinsella suffered from diabetes for decades and chose to die with a physician's assistance on September 16, 2016.[13]




Short story collections[edit]

  • Dance Me Outside, (1977, short stories). Stories included: Illiana comes home – Dance me outside – Horse collars – Panache – Butterflies – The McGuffin – Caraway – Linda Star – The kid in the stove – Ups and downs – Penance – The inaugural meeting – Lark song – Feathers – Between – Longhouse – Gooch.[14]
  • Scars, (1978, short stories). Stories included: Mr. Whitey – Bones – John cat – Manitou motors – Goose moon – The four-sky thunder bundle – Scars.[15]
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes To Iowa, (1980, short stories). Stories included: Fiona the first – A quite incredible dance – Shoeless Joe Jackson comes to Iowa – Waiting for the call – Sister Ann of the cornfields – The Grecian urn – Mankiewitz won't be bowling Tuesday nights anymore – A picture of the virgin – The blacksmith shop caper – First names and empty pockets.[16]
  • Born Indian, (1981, short stories). Some of the stories in this collection are: Born Indian, Indian Struck, The Sister, and Jokemaker. This is an incomplete list.
    • This in German: Spaßvogel. transl. Klaus Schultz, in: Erkundungen. Verlag Volk und Welt, Berlin 1986
  • Moccasin Telegraph, (1983, short stories). Stories included: The bottle queen – Strings – The moccasin telegraph – Green candles – Parts of the eagle – The sense she was born with – The ballad of the public trustee – Where the wild things are – Dr. Don – The college – Nests – Vows – The queen's hat – The mother's dance – Pius Blindman is coming home – Fugitives.[17]
  • The Thrill of the Grass, (1984, short stories). Stories included: The Last Pennant Before Armageddon – The Baseball Spur – How I Got My Nickname – Bud and Tom – Nursie – The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record – Driving Toward the Moon – Barefoot and Pregnant in Des Moines – The Firefighter – The Battery – The Thrill of the Grass.[18]
  • Five Stories, (1985, short stories). Stories included: Frank Pierce, Iowa – Oh, Marley – Diehard – A Hundred Dollars Worth of Roses – Homer.[19]
  • The Alligator Report, (1985, short stories). Stories included: The post office octopus – The Vancouver Chapter of the Howard G. Scharff Memorial Society – Gabon – Syzygy – The secret – The silver porcupine – Books by the pound – The East End Umbrella Company Endowment for the Arts – A page from the marriage manual for Songhees brides – How I missed the million dollar round table – The job – The redemption center – Marco in paradise – Voyeur – King of the street – The resurrection of trout fishing in America shorty – The letter writer – Preserving fireweed for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad – Strawberry stew – Electrico utensilio – The book buyers – Doves and proverbs – I am airport – The gerbil that ate Los Angeles – The history of peanut butter – The alligator report.[20]
  • The Fencepost Chronicles, (1986, short stories, winner of the 1987 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour). Stories included: Truth – The truck – Beef – The managers – The practical education of Constable B.B. Bobowski – To look at the Queen – The Indian nation cultural exchange program – The performance – The bear went over the mountain – Dancing – Real indians – The fog – Indian Joe.[21]
  • Red Wolf, Red Wolf, (1987, short stories). Stories included: Red Wolf, Red Wolf – Something to Think About – Lieberman in Love – Driving Patterns – Elvis Bound – Oh, Marley – Truth and History – Evangeline's Mother – Billy in Trinidad – Apartheid – Butterfly Winter – For Zoltan, Who Sings – Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck.[22]
  • The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt, (1988, short stories). Stories included: Distances – Reports Concerning the Death of the Seattle Albatross Are Somewhat Exaggerated – The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt – Frank Pierce, Iowa – K Mart – The Valley of the Schmoon – Punchlines – The Eddie Scissons Syndrome – Diehard – Searching for Freddy.[23]
  • The Miss Hobbema Pageant, (1989, short stories). Stories included: Being invisible – Snitches – Pizza Ria – A lighter load – The Miss Hobbema pageant – Forgiveness among animals – Tricks – Graves – Coming home to roost – The sundog society – The election – Homer – A hundred dollars worth of roses – The medicine man's daughter.[24]
  • The Dixon Cornbelt League and Other Baseball Stories, (1993, short stories). Stories included: The Baseball Wolf – The Fadeaway – The Darkness Deep Inside – Eggs – How Manny Embarquadero Overcame and Began His Climb to the Major Leagues – Searching for January – Feet of Clay – Lumpy Drobot, Designated Hitter – The Dixon Cornbelt League.[25]
  • Brother Frank's Gospel Hour, (1994, short stories). Stories included: Bull – Miracle on Manitoba Street – The elevator – Ice man – Turbulence – Saskatoon search – The rain birds – George the cat – Conflicting statements – Dream catcher – Brother Frank's gospel hour.[26]
  • The Secret of the Northern Lights, (1998, short stories). Stories included: Bleaching the Buffalo – The Auction – The Lightning Birds – Dangerous Consequences – Hide and Seek – The Porcupine Man – Practical People – Threes – The Legend – Fun and Games – Mother's Day – The Secret of the Northern Lights.[27]
  • Baseball Fantastic, (2000, short stories). Stories included: Fred Noonan Flying Services – The Indestructible Hadrian Wilks. (This is a collection edited by Kinsella that includes stories by other authors.)[28]
  • Japanese Baseball and Other Stories, (2000, short stories). Stories included: The Kowloon Cafe – Tulips – The Mansions of Federico Juarez – Japanese Baseball – The Indestructible Hadrian Wilks – The First and Last Annual Six Towns Area Old-Timers' Game – The Lime Tree – The Arbiter – Fred Noonan Flying Services – Wavelengths – Underestimating Lynn Johanssen.[29]
  • The Essential W. P. Kinsella, (2015, short stories). Stories included: Truth – How I got my nickname –The night Manny Mota tied the record – First names and empty pockets – Searching for January – Lieberman in love – The Grecian urn – The fog – Beef – Distances – How Manny Embarquadero overcame and began his climb to the major leagues – The Indian Nation Cultrural Exchange Program – K Mart – The firefighter – Dr. Don – Brother Frank's Gospel Hour – The Alligator Report–with questions for discussion – King of the street – Wavelengths – Do not abandon me – Marco in Paradise – Out of the picture – The lightning birds – Punchlines – The last surviving member of the Japanese Victory Society – The job – The risk takers – The lime tree – Doves and proverbs – Waiting on Lombard Street – Shoeless Joe Jackson comes to Iowa.[30]



  1. ^ "Kinsella, W(illiam) P(atrick) 1935- - Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  2. ^ "ABCBookWorld". ABCBookWorld. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  3. ^ "W.P. Kinsella: 14th Annual Literary Festival". Old Dominion University. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Geddes, John. "W.P. on J.D.: Kinsella talks about writing Salinger into 'Shoeless Joe'". Macleans. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Grandy, Karen; Besner, Neil (September 16, 2016). "W.P. Kinsella". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Archived from the original on April 2, 2008.
  6. ^ Bourgeois-Doyle, Dick, What's So Funny?: Lessons from Canada's Leacock Medal for Humour Writing. General Store Publishing House, 2015. ISBN 978-1-77123-342-2. p. 151
  7. ^ a b Geddes, John (January 29, 2010). "Archives: W.P. Kinsella on Holden Caulfield and writing Salinger". Maclean's. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  8. ^ "Box office/business for Field of Dreams (1989)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Twigg, Alan (September 18, 2016). "#188 W.P. Kinsella". BC Booklook. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  10. ^ Coderre, Nadine. "Car accident ends W. P. Kinsella's writing career". The E-Carillon. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  11. ^ "News: Kinsella's back!". Enfield and Wizenty. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  12. ^ Hayward, Steven (November 11, 2011). "A welcome return to baseball's field of dreams". Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  13. ^ Obituary Archived October 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, MontrealGazette.com; retrieved September 17, 2016.
  14. ^ Dance Me Outside. WorldCat. OCLC 3362085. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  15. ^ Scars : stories. WorldCat. OCLC 4729913. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Shoeless Joe Jackson comes to Iowa. WorldCat. OCLC 6572287. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  17. ^ The moccasin telegraph and other stories. WorldCat. OCLC 319211809. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  18. ^ The Thrill of the Grass. WorldCat. OCLC 1117643840. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  19. ^ "FIVE STORIES". AbeBooks. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  20. ^ The alligator report : stories. WorldCat. OCLC 953252254. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  21. ^ The Fencepost chronicles. WorldCat. OCLC 571451347. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  22. ^ Red Wolf, Red Wolf: Kindle Edition. Amazon. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  23. ^ FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SLUGGER MCBATT. WorldCat. OCLC 1155320061. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  24. ^ The Miss Hobbema pageant. WorldCat. OCLC 1150829397. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  25. ^ The Dixon Cornbelt League: And Other Baseball Stories. Amazon. September 17, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  26. ^ Brother Frank's Gospel Hour. King County Library System. 1996. OCLC 35178632. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  27. ^ "THE SECRET OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS". AbeBooks. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  28. ^ "Baseball Fantastic". AbeBooks. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  29. ^ Japanese Baseball. Amazon. November 17, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "THE ESSENTIAL W. P. KINSELLA". Library of Congress. Retrieved August 22, 2020.

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