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Shoeless Joe Paperback – April 28, 1999
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W. P. Kinsella plays with both myth and fantasy in his lyrical novel, which was adapted into the enormously popular movie, Field of Dreams. It begins with the magic of a godlike voice in a cornfield, and ends with the magic of a son playing catch with the ghost of his father. In Kinsella's hands, it's all about as simple, and complex, as the object of baseball itself: coming home. Like Ring Lardner and Bernard Malamud before him, Kinsella spins baseball as backdrop and metaphor, and, like his predecessors, uses the game to tell us a little something more about who we are and what we need. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
First, let me state the obvious: most of the people who panned this book outright had to read it for school, and write a report on it. I can honestly say that, in my opinion, this book is not for your average high school student. The ideas and themes in this novel, not to mention the ideals and dreams, are very difficult to comprehend if you're still in high school. Some of the life experiences, that are are required to understand what Mr. Kinsella is saying, are still years away. It's a shame that these students are forced to read something that, in my opinion, they are not yet ready for. If they waited until they were older, they would understand. And they would love the book.
This is not Field of Dreams. That movie is the result of Hollywood taking this story, clipping here and editing there, and coming up with a screenplay that, while outstanding in its own way, is severely lacking in the substance of what this book is about.
It's about life. It's about dreams and realities. It's about injustice and redemption. But most of all, it's about love and family.
Ray Kinsella is an anomaly in today's society. He is a 1960s dreamer in a world full of pragmatic realists. He sees things that most people overlook. He remembers things that most people consider insignificant. But, most of all, he hears things that others cannot hear.
"If you build it, he will come." A raspy, baseball announcer's voice in the middle of an Iowa cornfield says those seven words, and Ray Kinsella knows exactly what they mean. Build a baseball stadium, and Shoeless Joe Jackson, the falsely accused and disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox star, will return to play again. If that sounds hokey, or corny, it's because, to most people, it is. But not to Ray. Shoeless Joe Jackson was the favorite player of his father, John Kinsella. Ray grew up hearing stories of the 1919 White Sox, and Shoeless Joe. As the story progresses, the pure love Ray feels for his father becomes more and more evident. While the movie makes it something different, in the book it is all about love and memory.
The love between Ray and Annie is as close to a perfect love as humanity can get. And if some find that unreal, it's because it is so rare that it seems unreal. This is the love we all dream about. This is the love we feel we all have. But in reality, this love is the ideal love. And though in many ways it is hard to believe such a love could ever exist, in some very rare and special circumstances, it can, and it does.
Why does Ray follow the voice he hears? Why does he plow under his cornfield, risking his farm, his home, and possibly even his family? Because Ray knows that sometimes you have to follow the voices you hear. He knows Annie will understand. Or if not understand, realize that he has to do what he has to do. From the first time Shoeless Joe appears in his field, Ray starts to dream. He dreams of seeing his father again. Seeing him in a way he never knew him: young and playing baseball, the game he loved. Shoeless Joe tells him to finish the field, to make it possible for all of the disgraced White Sox to come and play again. Then, and only then, he promises, will they consider having his father on the team.
So Ray begins his long, slow journey, finishing the field, learning the tricks of the trade from the experts, creating a perfect ball park. And still he waits.
And then the voice comes back. And Ray is off on a journey to take one of the most famous reclusive authors of our time to a baseball game. He plans his trip carefully, preparing himself so he will be ready to share his dreams, to open his heart and soul to a man who he is convinced needs him to come take him to a baseball game.
Along the way, we also meet Eddie "Kid" Scissons, the oldest living Chicago Cub (or is he), and learn the short, but poignant tale of Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. The playing out of these stories, and the love of baseball, and all things pure and simple, tug at our hearts, and make us want to believe in the dreams.
And we do. And when Ray finally comes back to the farm, accompanied by a ghost from the past, and a mystery from the present, he discovers his long-lost twin brother has shown up, confusing Annie and their daughter. The differences between the identical twin brothers are enormous, but slowly, they begin to disappear as the dream, Ray's catcher, his father, finally makes his appearance.
The threats of losing everything to Annie's scheming brother, and his business partner, the reality of "Kid" Scissons, and the tragic heroics of Moonlight Graham bring the book ever closer to its climax, as we realize that some dreams, no matter how precious, are sometimes less important when the glare of reality blinds us, forcing us to make choices we thought we would never have to make.
This is a story of love, dreams and life that is worthy of any book collection. Read it. You will come away better for having done so.
I was not disappointed. The book possesses all the whimsy of the movie and then some, a kind of magical realism with a light touch. In this story, baseball is more than a sport, and the main character, Ray Kinsella is more than a fan. The sport symbolizes an idealized and simpler time, but Ray’s farm and family, the land and his sense of belonging, are a large part of the story too.
Ray has more or less floated through life, with a sense more of wide-eyed confusion that discontent. He loves his wife and child, and finds peace on the farm, but his situation is not stable. The farm is bleeding money, and he’s at risk of losing it all. The rapid pace of technology and of big corporate interests threaten to take over the farm, to tear down the farm house he calls home, and replace it with a cinder block, computerized command center, making his precious plot a part of a much larger agribusiness.
Ray’s worries are overshadowed not only by this threat, but by memories of his deceased father and their unresolved relationship. His father led a hard and unhappy life, except for a brief time in his youth when he followed his dream to play professional baseball.
All these threads are brought together with eclectic fellow travelers (more than in the movie—Ray’s twin brother, who works as a carnival barker, the old man who sold Ray the farm, who claims to be the oldest living Chicago Cub). But what really separates the book from the movie is the writing. The story is told with such rich and evocative language (although occasionally a bit over the top), that reading this wonderful novel feels like waltzing through a dream.