Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Received: The Essential W. P. Kinsella

The Essential W. P. KinsellaTaxes: done (finally). Current editing deadline project: completed early this week, and ahead of schedule, too.

So that brings me to one of my recently received books: The Essential W. P. Kinsella, from Tachyon Publications. Though when I initially worked on this book, and then wrote a blog post about it back on August 26, 2014, the working title was "The Very Best of W. P. Kinsella."

Whether it be "The Very Best" or "The Essential" -- "to-may-to, to-mah-to" -- it doesn't matter...this is really the one and only book you need to read, especially if you are new to the writing of W. P. Kinsella.

For those completely unfamiliar with the author's work, he wrote the story "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa," which is included in the book. The story was expanded into the novel Shoeless Joe, which later begat the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta: If you build it, he will come.

There are quite a few baseball stories included in this collection. But the way in which Kinsella tells such a story, the reader doesn't need an understanding of baseball; the game of baseball merely serves as a metaphor on life -- and what a life it can be: W. P. Kinsella-style, and that "style" typically includes a touch of the supernatural as well. Here's an excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review:
...Other charming baseball fantasies include "The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record," in which a fan agrees to sacrifice himself to bring back the recently dead Yankees star Thurman Munson, and "Searching for January," which concerns an encounter with the deceased Roberto Clemente. Alongside these stories are several more realistic and mostly gentle satires, such as "The Fog," that present the escapades of several indefatigable members of Canada’s First Nations. "The Grecian Urn" concerns a couple who can inhabit the interior worlds of great works of art. "K Mart" is the touching tale of three boys who use baseball to escape from their unhappy lives. Kinsella is a masterly writer of short fiction....each of these works, whether fantastic or realistic, is individually a small marvel of the storyteller's art. ~ Publishers Weekly starred review

In support of the publication of The Essential W. P. Kinsella, the author -- who turns 80 on May 25 -- has been making the rounds of media interviews. In an interview with Richard Warnica of the National Post, Kinsella says of his popular, and oft controversial, First Nations/Hobbema Reserve stories: "They are funny and they are true. They portray the native people in a great light and they show their sense of humour. That is how oppressed people survive." Short story "The Last Surviving Member of the Japanese Victory Society," "a sweet piece about late-life love and loss," was the last story Kinsella read to his wife, Barbara, before she passed away in 2012. "I always read everything aloud [to her]. She is the best editor I ever worked with." The story was published in 2013.

In an interview with Charity Nebbe on Talk of Iowa, for Iowa's Public Radio, Kinsella said of this new collection: "I just want people to enjoy the work. I'd like them to say, 'wow that story really moved me, or that really made me laugh, or it left me with a little tear in my eye.' That's all that I've ever wanted from my writing. I want people to enjoy it."

Two stories, "Do Not Abandon Me" and "Out of the Picture," are original to this collection.

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