Shoeless Joe

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shoeless Joe
by W.P. Kinsella
Most people already know this story through the film version, Field of Dreams. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, it’s the story of Ray, an Iowa man who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield on his farm. A voice tells him, “If you build it, he will come.” His wife Annie supports his wild scheme with no questions and he builds the field. Soon long-dead baseball players like Shoeless Joe Jackson appear on the diamond to play baseball.
On the surface the book is obviously about baseball, but as someone who isn’t a fan of the sport, I can promise it’s really about so much more. It’s about dreaming big, supporting the people you love and finding your true home. 
The writing is lyrical and nostalgic. I love Kinsella’s reverence for the sport. He treats both the game and the Iowa cornfields like they are something holy and precious. I’m sure that reading it as I drove through Iowa played a big part in the fact that I felt so connected to the story. We are travelers right alongside Ray on his quest to follow the instructions being given to him.
Some people around him can see the magic and some can't. This aspect of the story made me think of reading. Some people pick up a book and are carried away by the beauty of the story, others get nothing from it and the experience is forgettable. I'm so grateful to be one of the ones that can see the magic.
BOTTOM LINE: Pack this book in your suitcase the next time you take a road trip through the beautiful Midwestern states. It’s a reminder to appreciate all the things you love in your life and to always notice the magic.
“My impulse is to turn back, but I know I won't, even though it is so easy not to do something.”
“Growing up is a ritual -- more deadly than religion, more complicated than baseball, for there seem to be no rules. Everything is experienced for the first time.”
“America has been erased like a blackboard, only to be rebuilt and then erased again."
"Iowa City is a town of grandfathers fighting a losing battle against time. We have a drugstore with a soda fountain," I say. "It's dark and cool and you can smell malt the air like a musty perfume. And they have a cold lemon-Cokes and sweating glasses, a lime drink called Green River, and just the best chocolate malts in America."
**One major change from the book to the film is the character of the reclusive writer. The role is beautifully played by James Earl Jones in the movie, but in the book it’s J.D. Salinger!


Jeanne said...

I love this book and the movie. Did you know that people can still visit the field where the movie was filmed? We've thought about going when we drop Eleanor off at college in Iowa, but it's a long way from her college which is a very long way from our house.

thecuecard said...

JD Salinger eh? That would be the day. I'm glad you're reading a baseball novel, love the sport. I recall the movie. It's a neat kind of magic!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - I did know that! We visit the Huz' grandparents in Iowa at least once a year, but like you, their home is far from where the field is. I still want to make it happen at some point though.

thecuecard - Isn't that funny? Apparently he was furious about it and threatened to sue if they put him in the movie.