W. P. Kinsella Kinsella, W. P.

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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W. P. Kinsella 1935-

(Full name William Patrick Kinsella) Canadian short story writer, editor, and novelist.

The following entry presents an overview of Kinsella's career through 2001.

Kinsella has earned critical acclaim for his short story collections focusing on modern-day Canadian Indians and for his novels and short stories about baseball. Several of his works—including Dance Me Outside (1977) and The Moccasin Telegraph (1984)—attempt to debunk stereotypes and distortions of the North American Indian by portraying contemporary Native Americans struggling to survive in caucasian societies. In the novels Shoeless Joe (1982) and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986) and the short story collection The Thrill of the Grass (1984), Kinsella uses the game of baseball as his primary metaphor, focusing less on the onfield exploits of his characters than on the magical and rejuvenating force that the sport provides for its followers. Kinsella's skill at blending fantasy with realism in a poetically whimsical style has been noted by many critics and has prompted comparisons to American humorist Richard Brautigan.

Biographical Information

Kinsella was born in Alberta, Canada, on May 25, 1935, to John Matthew, a contractor, and Olive Mary, a printer. Kinsella's father was a semi-professional baseball player who instilled in his son a love for the game at an early age. Before beginning his career in writing, Kinsella worked at a variety of jobs such as claims investigator, government clerk, and restaurant owner. At the age of thirty-five, he returned to school and received a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Victoria in 1974. In 1976 he was accepted into the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa and received his M.F.A. from the university in 1978. He taught at the University of Iowa from 1976 to 1978 and later taught creative writing and English at the University of Calgary from 1978 to 1983. After the success of his first novel, Shoeless Joe, Kinsella left teaching to pursue a full-time writing career. He won the Books in Canada Award for first novels, the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, and the Canadian Authors Association Prize for Shoeless Joe. He has also been awarded the Writers Guild of Alberta O'Hagan novel medal for The Moccasin Telegraph, the Alberta Achievement Award for Excellence in Literature and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor for The Fencepost Chronicles (1986), and the 1987 Author of the Year Award from the Canadian Booksellers Association. Shoeless Joe was adapted for the screen in the 1989 film Field of Dreams, which was nominated for best picture, best score, and best adapted screenplay awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Major Works

Beginning with Dance Me Outside, Kinsella has used Silas Ermineskin, a droll, self-conscious young Cree Indian from Hobbema, Alberta, whose broken English is rich in metaphor and imagery to narrate his series of short story collections focusing on Native Americans, The stories in Dance Me Outside portray the various ways in which Native Americans are conditioned to expect and resign themselves to victimization. The grimness of the subject matter is often lightened by the humorous dissimilarities of caucasian and Native-American lifestyles and worldviews. The Moccasin Telegraph depicts a Native-American community attempting to reconcile their traditional customs with contemporary technological innovations and bureaucratic legislation. Without putting inordinate worth on ancient Native-American culture, Kinsella extols the remnants of native wisdom that have survived in modern North America. In The Fencepost Chronicles Silas Ermineskin returns as a narrator, but the main character in the stories is his comical friend, Fencepost Frank. Silas, now a published writer, and Frank are travelling across Canada to cover the Pope's visit with the Native Americans in the Northwest Territory. Brother Frank's Gospel Hour and Other Stories (1994) continues the Ermineskin series,...

(The entire section is 46,404 words.)