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Magical Realism & Baseball!
on 28 March 2013
Shoeless Joe by W P Kinsella is the classic novel that inspired the film Field of Dreams. Originally written and published back in 1982, Shoeless Joe is part of the backlist of Kinsella's books acquired by HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project and was published by them on 14 March 2013.
The Friday Project is to publish a new novel by W P Kinsella called the Butterfly Winter, and his eight other backlist titles will follow in 2014.
So, back to Shoeless Joe. I have to hold up my hands to two things. First, I've never seen the film Field of Dreams and second, I know nothing about baseball. This is a novel about baseball, but it is also most certainly a novel of love and dreams and how a person's power of belief can make things happen.
Ray Kinsella lives on a remote farm with his wife Annie and their small daughter. Ray is obsessed with baseball. Most of his life events are connected in some way to the game, he remembers his father according to the baseball stories that he told him. Most of all, Ray is obsessed with Shoeless Joe - his hero who was banned from the game after the match-fixing Black Box Scandal in 1919. One day, when looking out across his land, Ray hears a voice
"If you build it, he will come"
So, Ray builds it, and he comes, and so do other baseball legends. Ray then takes a trip across the country and helps the author JD Salinger overcome his pain.
This novel has a somewhat dream like feel to it, with Ray taking the leading role. There are very few characters within the story and personally I would have loved to have known more about Ray's wife Annie. The small glimpses of her were not enough, I wanted to know why she adored Ray so much - maybe it's because Annie wasn't that fond of baseball either that I was more interested in her. Ray's total obsession becomes a little tedious at times. I often struggle with magical realism in novels, it has to be done so well for me to engage with it, or has to be a subject matter that I really love.
There is no doubt however that WP Kinsella writes in an almost poetic way, with beautiful and descriptive language and despite the subject matter I found the novel quite a satisfying read. I will most certainly look out for more by the author.