W. P. Kinsella Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226256-Kinsella.jpg W. P. Kinsella Published by Salem Press, Inc.

William Patrick Kinsella was born on May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of John Matthew, a contractor, and Olive Mary, a printer. Kinsella’s father was a semiprofessional baseball player who taught his son to love the game at an early age, establishing a fascination with the American pastime that would define the Canadian author’s reputation as a writer. Kinsella, an only child, grew up in almost total isolation on a farm in northern Alberta. He was home-schooled until the fifth grade and began writing stories about fictional characters that doubled as his friends.

Before embarking on a career as a writer, Kinsella worked as a government clerk, claims investigator, account executive, and restaurant owner. At the age of thirty-five, he began attending the University of Victoria, where he went on to receive his B.A. in creative writing. From 1974 to 1976, he worked as a taxicab driver in Victoria. In 1976, he was accepted to study at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and he received his M.F.A. from the university in 1978. While enrolled in the Writers’ Workshop, Kinsella was an instructor at the University of Iowa. After finishing up there, he accepted a job as an assistant professor of English and creative writing at the University of Calgary, and he stayed there from 1978 to 1983.

Kinsella sold his first pieces of writing regularly to magazines. In 1977, a collection of stories, Dance Me Outside, was published by Oberon Press in Ottawa, Ontario. Scars was published in 1978, and Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, a short-story collection, followed in 1980. Born Indian, the collection that includes “Fiona the First” (which won honorable mention in the annual series Best American Short Stories, 1980), appeared in 1981, and Shoeless Joe, a 1982 novel based on the title story from Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, was the first of Kinsella’s books published in the United States....

(The entire section is 828 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

William Patrick Kinsella was born May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His father was a contractor; his mother, a printer. An only child, Kinsella spent his early years in a log cabin near Lac Ste.-Anne, sixty miles northwest of Edmonton. He rarely saw other children and completed grades one through four by correspondence. His parents, grandmother, and aunt read to one another and told stories, and Kinsella began writing fantasies when he was five or six. The family moved to Edmonton when he was ten, and his father, a former semiprofessional baseball player, began taking him to baseball games. In the eighth grade, Kinsella won a prize for “Diamond Doom,” a baseball mystery. At eighteen, he published his first story, a science-fiction tale about a totalitarian society, in The Alberta Civil Service Bulletin.

Kinsella worked as a government clerk, manager of a retail credit company, account executive for the City of Edmonton, owner of an Italian restaurant, and taxicab driver, the last two while attending the University of Victoria, where he received a B.A. in 1974. He then attended the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, earning a master of fine arts degree in 1978. He taught at the University of Calgary from 1978 to 1983, but he hated the academic life, quitting to write full time. Kinsella was married to Mildred Clay from 1965 to 1978. From 1978 to 1983, he taught creative writing at the University of Calgary. He then resigned from teaching to spend his time writing. He married the writer Ann Knight in 1978, and they settled in White Rock, British Columbia, and Iowa City, Iowa, when not traveling to attend major league baseball games. Kinsella has two daughters, Shannon and Erin. In 1997 Kinsella was hit by a car and suffered a concussion and the loss of taste and smell. His injuries, which also included difficulty concentrating, put his writing career on hold.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

After various jobs as a young adult, W. P. Kinsella returned to college, earned a degree in and taught creative writing, and became a full-time writer. Born in Canada, Kinsella has lived in the United States and regularly travels across the country watching baseball games. His innumerable stories and occasional novels often involve either the Native American residents of the Ermineskin Reserve in Alberta, Canada, or the game of baseball.

Kinsella’s Ermineskin stories—in Dance Me Outside, Scars, Born Indian, The Moccasin Telegraph and Other Indian Tales, The Fencepost Chronicles, and elsewhere—artfully convey the wisdom and stoic humor of their Native American characters. The Indians frequently have to confront ignorant, arrogant, and sometimes oppressive white officials and visitors. Narrator Silas Ermineskin is a complex character known to friends as someone who writes and publishes stories; the series becomes a meditation on writing as a way to develop and express personal identity.

The Indian stories are noteworthy, but Kinsella’s baseball fiction made him famous. For Kinsella, baseball, with its fixed traditions, pastoral setting, and leisurely pace, embodies everything admirable in the American character, and baseball enables troubled people to achieve fulfillment. In Shoeless Joe, when a voice tells a farmer to build a baseball diamond, dead players return to play their favorite game, the farmer reconciles with his dead father, and a bitter recluse, writer J. D. Salinger, finds happiness when he departs with the players. Other baseball stories feature magically gifted players, divine intervention, or people transformed by a devotion to baseball.

Kinsella’s interests combine in The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, in which two men travel back in time to a 1906 baseball game, while a Native American spirit watches and hopes for an Iowa victory that will return his lost lover. In this work, Native Americans and baseball embody the essential American identity, which is fragile, since the game’s end breaks the spell and erases the event from history. Kinsella’s love for baseball is unalloyed, and the popularity of these stories proves that other Americans share his attitude.