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Shoeless Joe

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
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Ray Kinsella, sitting on the porch of his Iowa farm one evening, hears the voice of a ghostly baseball announcer. It speaks to him the famous line, "If you build it, he will come". Needing no further explanation, Kinsella visualizes the ball field he is being asked to create in the middle of his field of corn. The voice will speak only two more things to Ray: "Ease his pain" and "Go the distance", and yet the dreaming, idealistic man knows just what it is he has to do. Digging up his corn to build a ballpark will inspire the return of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson, a man whose reputation was forever tarnished by the scandalous 1919 World Series. Thus begins Shoeless Joe, the award-winning novel by W.P. Kinsella which also inspired Kevin Costner´s exceedingly popular film, Field of Dreams.

W.P. Kinsella has been called a great writer of baseball novels, but this is misleading. While his works all evince a love for the game he grew up watching, Kinsella doesn´t merely treat baseball as a subject in itself. Rather, he uses it as a metaphor, a way to talk about things like innocence, belief and, perhaps above all, America. Shoeless Joe is a parable about one of the most fundamental of American ideals, beginning anew. Ray Kinsella, by plowing up a large section of his farmland, is both building and rebuilding, creating what had never been there and re-creating what had come before. The land was once a place where the sins of the old could be expunged and a new vision realized, and this kind of renewal is what Kinsella´s quixotic creation brings about.

W.P. Kinsella´s novel is perhaps most importantly a story of personal renewal through redress of the sins and trauma of the past. The announcer says, "Ease his pain", which Ray intuitively understands to mean the pain of the great reclusive American writer, J.D. Salinger. Salinger, abraded by the publicity garnered by the worldwide success of his novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has withdrawn into almost total solitude, refusing to publish any more of his writings. Salinger is, along with Shoeless Joe, an American icon whose notoriety has spoiled something that was once was pure and passionate. Baseball, and what it represents, will help ease his pain.

The field will also allow Shoeless Joe, a legend whose name, the book suggests, was unfairly besmirched by the infamous "Black Sox" scandal, to return to the game he loves But more importantly, the ghost of Shoeless Joe is a link between Ray Kinsella and his father, a man from whom he has been estranged for many years. And thus the book is finally a story about Kinsella´s own renewal, and the opportunity the field provides for him to face his ghosts.

RosettaBooks; Read online
Title: Shoeless Joe
Author: W.P. Kinsella
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