Last January I reviewed W.P. Kinsella’s last novel BUTTERFLY WINTER. Now Kinsella’s publishers have produced this collection of his finest short stories. Kinsella will always be best known for his baseball magic-realist novel SHOELESS JOE, which became the film FIELD OF DREAMS. But this collection shows that his work is more diverse than his famous opus would suggest.
There are a number of magic-realist baseball stories including the story that started it all, Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa. Although I know nothing about baseball I really enjoyed Kinsella’s stories, which are less about a sport than about questioning the human condition or exploring concepts.
Alongside these clearly magic-realist baseball stories you will find a number of more realistic Canadian First Nation stories set on the Hobbema Indian Reservation. I had not come across these stories before, which poke fun at the Canadian authorities’ and white population’s attitude to the First Nations. I was firmly on the side of the narrator, the young Cree Silas Ermineskin, and his mates chuckling at their exploits and wry comments.
In addition to the baseball and Hobbema Indian stories, the collection includes a number of standalone stories. I particularly enjoyed two very different stories about mature men falling in love. Lieberman in Love is an unusual take on a man’s relationship with a prostitute and The Last Surviving Member of the Japanese Victory Society is a story about intercultural love in face of opposition from the woman’s mother. The latter story is probably my favourite in the collection and has such an emotional honesty about it that I was not surprised to read the author’s moving dedication to his deceased wife at its end.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a master of the short story form.
Read the rest of Brooks’ review at MAGIC REALISM.
For more info about THE ESSENTIAL W. P. KINSELLA, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Thomas Canty.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story.