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In the late spring of 1982 I read W.P. Kinsella’s book, Shoeless Joe. Those unfamiliar with the book, which was about the MLB player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the Chicago Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919, might be more acquainted with the 1989 movie based upon it, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster. The book, a work of fantasy and magical realism, was ultimately less about baseball and more about dreams, redemption and relationships. Both book and film were well received.
The most memorable line from the book (and movie) was, “If you build it, he will come” (sometimes mistakenly recalled as “they will come”). In this case, it referred to a baseball diamond and he referred to Shoeless Joe Jackson.
William Patrick Kinsella was a Canadian author (1935-2016). He grew up, first, in rural Alberta (homesteading and home-schooled) and then in Edmonton, took writing classes in his mid 30’s at the University of Victoria, (British Columbia) where he received a B.A. in Creative Writing at the age of 39 and then went on to the University of Iowa, where he was awarded an M.A. in 1978. Shoeless Joe (Kinsella’s first novel!) was written while the author attended the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It won two awards and, as noted above, was made into a well-regarded and financially successful movie.
Kinsella is known more for his short stories (40 in total) than his novels (three, all to do with baseball). His literary focus was on baseball and indigenous peoples (two interests he seemed to share with Costner, at least when I think about the latter’s role selection).
If any reader is interested, IMDB contains a wonderful list of trivia associated with the film and book, especially regarding the author J.D. Salinger, who objected strenuously to his being portrayed in the book.
But I remember the story more for another line, “Even for dreams, I have to work and wait.” Although I don’t think the phrase made it into the movie, at the time, it really resonated with me. I was so taken by it that I wrote it down on a little piece of paper and placed it on my desk at home. Naturally, I would see it every morning and evening. It served to remind me of what was required to get on with my life and to meet my ambitions. The message, of course, is that the fulfilment of dreams doesn’t arrive without considerable effort, determination and patience.
As is my wont, I still have the piece of paper. Here it is:
Not very fancy, I know.
At that time, I was waiting for a final decision on a particularly attractive job opportunity. Although the wait turned out to be much longer, more involved and frustrating than I ever could have imagined, my efforts ultimately proved successful. So, not only did the message serve its intended purpose, it’s still hanging around to this day on what now serves for my desk (the previous one being destroyed in a house move).
Perhaps that same persistence proved to be key to my current project, one of many steps in the long road leading to the writing and publishing of The Ravenstones series.