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Shoeless Joe
Cover of Shoeless Joe
Shoeless Joe
Ray Kinsella is sitting quietly on the back porch of his Iowa farm one evening when he hears the ghostly voice of a baseball announcer who says to him, "If you build it, he will come." Needing no...
Ray Kinsella is sitting quietly on the back porch of his Iowa farm one evening when he hears the ghostly voice of a baseball announcer who says to him, "If you build it, he will come." Needing no...
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Description-

  • Ray Kinsella is sitting quietly on the back porch of his Iowa farm one evening when he hears the ghostly voice of a baseball announcer who says to him, "If you build it, he will come." Needing no further explanation, Kinsella immediately sees in his mind's eye a baseball field that he is being asked to create in the middle of a corn field. The voice will speak only two other things to Ray: "Ease his pain" and "Go the distance," and yet the dreaming, idealistic man knows just what he is supposed to do. He knows that digging up the corn field in the back of his house will inspire the return of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson, a man whose reputation was forever tarnished by the scandalous 1919 World Series. So opens the award-winning novel by W. P. Kinsella which was the inspiration for the incredibly popular film Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner.

    W. P. Kinsella has been called a great writer of baseball novels but this title transcends that description. Kinsella doesn't merely treat baseball as a subject in and of itself; instead, he uses it as a metaphor to discuss larger issues such as innocence, belief, and perhaps above all of these things, America. Shoeless Joe is a parable about one of the most fundamental American ideals: beginning anew.

    By plowing up a large section of his farmland, Ray Kinsella is both building and rebuilding, creating what has never been as well as re-creating in a sense what had come before. The land had been a place where past sins could be expunged and a new vision realized. It is exactly this sort of renewal that Kinsella's quixotic creation brings about. Most importantly, this is a story about renewal and redress of trauma and sins of the past.

    Shoeless Joe is #47 on the Sports Illustrated Greatest 100 Sports books.

Excerpts-

  • From the book
    Chapter 1

    Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa

    My father said he saw him years later playing in a tenth-rate commercial league in a textile town in Carolina, wearing shoes and an assumed name.

    "He'd put on fifty pounds and the spring was gone from his step in the outfield, but he could still hit. Oh, how that man could hit. No one has ever been able to hit like Shoeless Joe."

    Three years ago at dusk on a spring evening, when the sky was a robbin's-egg blue and the wind as soft as a day-old chick, I was sitting on the verandah of my farm home in eastern Iowa when a voice very clearly said to me, "If you build it, he will come."

    The voice was that of a ballpark announcer. As he spoke, I instantly envisioned the finished product I knew I was being asked to conceive. I could see the dark, squarish speakers, like ancient sailors' hats, attached to aluminum-painted light standards that glowed down into a baseball field, my present position being directly behind home plate.

    In reality, all anyone else could see out there in front of me was a tattered lawn of mostly dandelions and quack grass that petered out at the edge of a cornfield perhaps fifty yards from the house.

    Anyone else was my wife Annie, my daughter Karin, a corn-colored collie named Carmeletia Pope, and a cinnamon and white guinea pig named Junior who ate spaghetti and sang each time the fridge door opened. Karin and the dog were not quite two years old.

    "If you build it, he will come," the announcer repeated in scratchy Middle American, as if his voice had been recorded on an old 78-r.p.m. record.

    A three-hour lecture or a 500-page guide book could not have given me clearer directions: Dimensions of ballparks jumped over and around me like fleas, cost figures for light standards and floodlights whirled around my head like the moths that dusted against the porch light above me.

    That was all the instruction I ever received: two announcements and a vision of a baseball field. I sat on the verandah until the satiny dark was complete. A few curdly clouds striped the moon, and it became so silent I could hear my eyes blink.

    Our house is one of those massive old farm homes, square as a biscuit box with a sagging verandah on three sides. The floor of the verandah slopes so that marbles, baseballs, tennis balls, and ball bearings all accumulate in a corner like a herd of cattle clustered with their backs to a storm. On the north verandah is a wooden porch swing where Annie and I sit on humid August nights, sip lemonade from teary glasses, and dream.

    When I finally went to bed, and after Annie inched into my arms in that way she has, like a cat that you suddenly find sound asleep in your lap, I told her about the voice and I told her that I knew what it wanted me to do.

    "Oh love," she said, "if it makes you happy you should do it," and she found my lips with hers. I shivered involuntarily as her tongue touched mine.

    Annie: She has never once called me crazy. Just before I started the first landscape work, as I stood looking out at the lawn and the cornfield, wondering how it could look so different in daylight, considering the notion of accepting it all as a dream and abandoning it, Annie appeared at my side and her arm circled my waist. She leaned against me and looked up, cocking her head like one of the red squirrels that scamper along the power lines from the highway to the house.

About the Author-

  • Canadian author W. P. Kinsella was born in 1935 on a farm in Northern Alberta and did not receive his B.A. in creative writing until he was thirty-nine. Before that, Kinsella held a series of odd jobs including working as a taxi driver, selling insurance, and managing a restaurant. While he began writing short fiction at seventeen, Kinsella did not see publication until 1979 with his work Dance Me Outside. He became a sensation in 1982 with Shoeless Joe, a novel about an Iowa man who digs up part of his cornfield in order to build a baseball field. This novel was an elaboration of his short story, "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa," which won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship and was made into the popular film Field of Dreams in 1989.

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    RosettaBooks
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