I am not a tremendous fan of baseball, but I am a fan of good writing and The Essential W.P. Kinsella is a collection of outstanding short fiction.
Kinsella is probably best known for his novel Shoeless Joe, which was the inspiration for the movie Field of Dreams. Reading through this collection it becomes clear that Kinsella has a definite affinity for baseball and baseball players. But in a testament to the power of Kinsella’s writing, the stories aren’t so much about baseball but about people, using baseball as backdrop or even a catalyst for action.
I say that I’m not a fan of baseball, but this doesn’t mean that I hate the game or have never watched it. I just am not obsessed with it the way I have seen some people react to the sport. Kinsella understands this obsession, perhaps shares it, and uses it to tell powerful stories.
Right from the start, Kinsella made me smile. A turn of a phrase, the recognition of a trait in a character, the understanding of a look or a desire, the shared secret between a character and myself … Kinsella captures it all so well and I was constantly smiling through these stories, which seems an unusual reaction to a work of fiction, but felt good all the same!
I tried to keep track of my favorite stories but it soon became evident that this was both easy, because I enjoyed them all, and difficult – how do you pick favorites from 30+ stories when you enjoy them all? “How I Got My Nickname” was one of the first stories that put a big smile on my face, and “The Indian Nation Cultural Exchange Program” hit home with me as it seemed to capture a mood and culture so perfectly.
This is the sort of book that I want to put into the hands of everyone I know and tell them to read these stories. They are about life and the people that make life worth living.
The book includes the following:
Introduction by Rick Wilber
“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”
“How Manny Embarquardero Overcame and Began His Climb to the Major Leagues”
“The Indian Nation Cultural Exchange Program”
“Brother Frank’s Gospel Hour”
“The Alligator Report – with Questions for Discussion”
“King of the Street”
“Do Not Abandon Me”
“Marco in Paradise”
“Out of the Picture”
“The Lightning Birds”
“The Last Surviving Member of the Japanese Victory Society”
“The Lime Tree”
“Doves and Proverbs”
“Waiting on Lombard Street”
“Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa”
Where it Began: Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella
I think that this needs to be required reading in schools. In Kinsella’s parlance, this book is a home-run.
Looking for a good book? You’ve found it with the collection The Essential W.P. Kinsella.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
The Essential W. P. Kinsella
author: W. P. Kinsella
publisher: Tachyon Publications
paperback, 432 pages