Guide to Baseball Fiction: W. P. Kinsella

It's too bad there are no Hallmark cards saying, "Sorry your loved one was killed by a foul ball." -- The Iowa Baseball Confederacy

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W. P. Kinsella, Canadian fiction writer, is one of the most prolific authors of baseball fiction.

Kinsella's fiction is by turns exhilarating and irritating. He has a very creative-writerly prose and has a fount of clever ideas about baseball and life. His best work is among the best contemporary fiction of any kind, but his weaker work can be very trying. Below I try to offer a guide to the range of his baseball fiction (he has also written several other novels and story collections).

Selected criticism: Aitken, McGimpsey


Slice-of-life story about ordinary folk turned ultra-rich.



Tributary to The Iowa Baseball Confederacy.


Dubious banana-republic humor blends with Kinsella's typical magical realism. Shares a setting with "How Manny Embarquadero Overcame" (below).



Notable for its narrative form, this book is told in a highly stylized language that repeats formulaic phrases over and over in a way that becomes positively Homeric.



A mirror-image to stories of the alienated athlete (think of Peter Gent's North Dallas Forty), this story stresses the loneliness and the pain even of the redeemed.



Nice story of the Rainmaker / Music Man type.


The story's gimmick can be seen a long way coming but is no less effective for that--almost the definition of a good short story. Attenuated later on as the novel Magic Time. See Phelan and U'ren for a different treatment of the motif.





Weird and dreamlike, less effective than some of its companion stories.



Charming and rueful story of an aging athlete.


A story in doubtful taste. Among other things, Kinsella seems to believe that Oklahoma is a desert . . .


Another field-of-dreams story, which does not live up to its eerie promise.



A collection of baseball stories.


Well-done, archetypal story about art and life, also quite brutal at times.


Kinsella's greatest weakness as a writer--the fact that all his characters talk like creative writing M.F.A.'s--becomes a positive advantage in this audacious little story.


Perhaps overly contrived--but then again, deliberately contrived. Shares a setting with "The Baseball Wolf" (above).




Ends up being too solemn, but has flashes of humor and a nice eerie folkloric sense.

Criticism: Hye.


Mostly a heavy, plangent story, this one has a very satisfying final scene.


A bit tired; Kinsella in his retro-wacky mode.


Charming magical-realism that blends the symbolic and the eerie.


It had been sharper and more unsettling as a short story.


Distasteful, sharply misogynist story.



Recalls Ring Lardner's much earlier story "My Roomy."


Bizarre, energetic story with a headlong confidence. Not zany; in fact, it turns quite grim.


Appealing short story, a nice tribute to Clemente.



Picaresque, parody, and magical realism blend well in this consistently funny fantasy. Filmed as Field of Dreams.

Selected criticism: Beach, Hye, Lord, MacDonald, Morrow, Reising, Sullivan




Another of Kinsella's fields of dreams.


Very nicely turned.