W. P. Kinsella

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 other Canadian issues.

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 materUniversity of Victoria
University of Iowa
GenreSports fiction
SubjectBaseball, First Nations
Notable awards

Early lifeEdit

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

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. Though 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 his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing there in 1974. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in English degree through 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 lifeEdit

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, W. P. Kinsella's literary output primarily consisted of two cycles of work dealing with two fictive universes: those dealing with baseball and those depicting the indigenous people of Canada. Kinsella's first published book was called Dance Me Outside (1977), which was a collection of seventeen 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]

In the field of baseball, Kinsella wrote nearly 40 short stories and three novels. Shoeless Joe (1982), his first novel, blends fantasy and magical realism to tell the story of a poor Iowa farmer who, yielding to voices in his head, builds a baseball field in his corn field 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's Champion Chicago Cubs. Box Socials (1991), an evocation of life in rural Alberta during the Great Depression and World War II, features a growing boy as its narrator and a purported local batting hero's hopes in facing a visiting major league pitcher 60 miles away in Edmonton.

Shoeless Joe remains Kinsella's most famous work. The book was mildly controversial in that it used a living person, the reclusive author J.D. Salinger, as one of its main characters. Kinsella, who had never met him, created a wholly imagined character (aside from his being a recluse) based on the author of The Catcher in the Rye, a book that had great meaning to him when he was a young man. To get a feel for Salinger, he re-read his body of work.

"I made sure to make him a nice character so that he couldn’t sue me."{{citation}}

In an example of metafiction, he named his protagonist in Shoeless Joe "Ray Kinsella", a character from Salinger's uncollected story “A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All”. Salinger had also used the surname shared by writer and protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye (Holden Caulfield's friend Richard Kinsella).[citation needed]

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 rumors held that Kinsella had actually met Salinger in person).[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.


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, and helped establish Costner as a star.[7]

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 considers to be of very poor quality.[8] The collection 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]

A short story by Kinsella, Lieberman in Love, was the basis for a short film that won the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in 1996. The Oscar win came as a surprise to the author, who, watching the award telecast from home, had no idea the film had been made and released. He had not been listed in the film's credits, and was not acknowledged by director Christine Lahti in her acceptance speech. A full-page advertisement was placed in Variety apologizing to Kinsella for the error.[8]

Career interruptionEdit

W. P. Kinsella was involved in a car accident in 1997 which almost resulted in the end of his fiction writing career. He was struck by a car while out walking and suffered a head injury when he hit the ground. He would 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 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 normal routine and didn't care. He did write book reviews to keep his name before the public.[9]

Kinsella's 14-year-long exit from the world of published fiction also may 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 back lists, as they were taxed on warehoused books.[citation needed]

This led to the thinning out of back lists 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 synergies. 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 publishing conglomerates.[citation needed]

Commenting about 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 yearsEdit

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 thirteen years, Butterfly Winter. The unpublished manuscript of the novel had won this publisher's Colophon Prize the preceding March. The release was backed up by a "modest" book tour, according to the publisher.[10]

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 his long-held passions of baseball and magical realism.[11] 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, who had suffered from diabetes for decades, elected to die with a physician's assistance on September 16, 2016.[12]




Short story collectionsEdit



  1. ^ "Kinsella, W(illiam) P(atrick) 1935- - Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  2. ^ "ABCBookWorld". ABCBookWorld. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  3. ^ "W.P. Kinsella: 14th Annual Literary Festival". Old Dominion University. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Geddes, John. "W.P. on J.D.: Kinsella talks about writing Salinger into 'Shoeless Joe'". Macleans. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Besner, Neil. "William Patrick Kinsella". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  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. ^ "Box office/business for Field of Dreams (1989)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  8. ^ a b "#188 W.P. Kinsella". BC Booklook. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "News: Kinsella's back!". Enfield and Wizenty. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  11. ^ Hayward, Steven (November 11, 2011). "A welcome return to baseball's field of dreams". Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  12. ^ Obituary Archived 2016-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, MontrealGazette.com; retrieved September 17, 2016.
  13. ^ "Tachyon 2015 preview: THE ESSENTIAL W. P. KINSELLA". Tumblr. Retrieved 3 December 2014.

External linksEdit