William P. Kinsella, Author of ‘Shoeless Joe,’ Dies at 81
By CHRISTOPHER MELE SEPT. 17, 2016 William P. Kinsella in 1992 at SkyDome in Toronto. Credit Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press
William P. Kinsella, who wrote “Shoeless Joe,” the novel that became the basis for the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” and the author of numerous baseball short stories, poetry collections and several works of nonfiction, died on Friday from a Doctor assisted suicide. Canada passed this just this past June 2016 and it is unique in having no requirements . Mr Kinsella was 81 and “depressed”
His literary agent, Carolyn Swayze, confirmed his death on her website. Mr. Kinsella’s works were known for their affection toward baseball, with characters and plots frequently set around the sport. They also were infused with a magical realism.
He told The Vancouver Sun in 2011 that he loved taking stories in directions readers did not expect. “I just think magically, I always have,” he said.
In a 1982 review of “Shoeless Joe” in The New York Times Book Review, Daniel Okrent wrote: “Mr. Kinsella is drunk on complementary elixirs, literature and baseball, and the cocktail he mixes of the two is a lyrical, seductive and altogether winning concoction. It’s a love story, really the love his characters have for the game becoming manifest in the trips they make through time and space and ether.”
In addition to “Shoeless Joe,” Mr. Kinsella wrote other novels in that genre, including “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy,” “Magic Time,” “If Wishes Were Horses” and “Butterfly Winter.”
“Field of Dreams” starred Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta. Mr. Costner played a corn farmer in Iowa who hears a voice that he interprets as a directive to build a baseball diamond in his fields, which he does. Mr. Kinsella had originally called the novel “Dream Field,” a choice that was overruled by his editor, according to the author’s website.
The signature line from the movie — “If you build it, he will come” — is a reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson, a dead professional baseball player who appears and asks to play catch. The line has been adapted over the years and morphed into, “If you build it, they will come,” a shorthand often meant to support or criticize the chances of success of a business or other venture just getting started.
Ray Liotta, left, and Kevin Costner in a scene from the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” based on Mr. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe.” Credit Universal Pictures
In 1997, Mr. Kinsella suffered a head injury after he was struck by a car. Three years later, The Canadian Press reported, he said he had no interest in writing fiction and spent his time playing Scrabble on the internet. His biographer, Willie Steele, said it took years for Mr. Kinsella to regain his “creative impulse to write,” contributing to a 13-year break between his published novels before “Butterfly Winter” was released in 2011, The Canadian Press reported.
Mr. Kinsella published almost 30 books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Ms. Swayze said in her statement that his final work of fiction, “Russian Dolls,” would be published next year by Coteau Books.
In a 1993 review of a collection of his stories, “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa,” Valerie Sayers, a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, called Mr. Kinsella’s work “wide-ranging but full of recurring motifs.”
“He has a fondness for baseball, freckled women and his own brand of magic realism, which involves a comic sense sometimes unabashedly sentimental and sometimes edgy,” she wrote in The New York Times.
Mr. Kinsella was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 25, 1935. He had been writing since he was a child, according to his website, and won a Y.M.C.A. contest when he was 14 & received his bachelor of arts in creative writing from the University of Victoria in 1974. Later in 1978, Kinsella earned a master of fine arts degree in English from the University of Iowa. He was a professor of English at the University of Calgary before he became a professional author.
“Shoeless Joe” won the Canadian Authors Association Prize, the Alberta Achievement Award, the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship & made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993. In 2005, he received the Order of British Columbia, and in 2009 the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.
His two daughters, Erin Kinsella and Shannon Kinsella, survive him, as do three stepchildren, Scarlet and Aaron Gaffney and Lyn Calendar; and four grandchildren.
Ms. Swayze said in a separate statement that Mr. Kinsella persuaded her to become a literary agent in 1994 to represent his work. “He was a dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon, irascible and difficult man.”