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Shoeless Joe (1999)

Shoeless Joe (1999)

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3.94 of 5 Votes: 1
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078572902X (ISBN13: 9780785729020)
turtleback books

About book Shoeless Joe (1999)

This is the novel on which the very popular film “Field of Dreams” was based and like that film it is chock full of Americana including baseball, farm life, small towns, J.D. Salinger, and road trips. It’s also brimming with baseball lore, trivia, batting averages, anecdotes, and personalities like the eponymous Shoeless Joe Jackson who, after the farmer Ray Kinsella builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield when he is promised by a mysterious baseball announcer voice that “if you build it, he will come”, returns, along with his teammates, the notorious Black Sox, who were banned from the game after accepting money from gamblers to throw the World Series in 1919. It was his dream to play the game he loved again after being banned from the major leagues, Ray believes, and the field of dreams is where his dream comes true at last.As do the dreams of several others. Ray’s father, who played only briefly in the minor leagues but worshipped the game fervently throughout his life, also comes, as do Moonlight Graham, another character from the early years of the game who only played one inning in the majors and never got a chance to go to bat, and J.D. Salinger who, according to this novel, harbored a dearly held aspiration as a youth to play professional ball at the Polo Grounds. For all of them Ray’s baseball diamond isn’t Iowa, it’s heaven.Canadian author W.P. Kinsella has thumbed through his Baseball Encyclopedia with intense concentration and it’s pretty admirable the way he spins an enchanting tale out of the facts and personalities he’s found there. The allegorical possibilities of baseball are stretched, gloriously, deliriously, to their limit and beyond, as immortal baseball gods return to earth to play their game, which is really the religious rites of their faith, on a cornfield that has been lovingly converted to a baseball diamond. In the meantime Ray needs to figure out a way to keep up with his mortgage payments so his family can stay on the farm because if he can’t there’s a greedy developer eyeing his baseball diamond as the last puzzle piece in a large tract being assembled for development.Grounding the nostalgic, mythical healing property of baseball in the team which has become a byword for dishonesty and corruption is questionable but the book does rise to a sort of poetic euphoria with it’s lyrical evocations of a past that never was. When J.D. Salinger expresses this sentiment, one which was forcefully and eloquently expressed by James Earl Jones in the film where he plays the author Terence Mann (Salinger threatened to sue the filmmakers if they used his name), “America has been erased like a blackboard, only to be rebuilt and then erased again. But baseball has marked time while America has rolled by like a procession of steamrollers” you realize that this novel is steamrolling history, or at least erasing it, to rebuild the American past according to a collective dream logic, made up of carefully chosen components which activate a nostalgic yearning then satisfy that yearning in the same manner that a psychic conflict is resolved through a dream.

Shoeless Joe is the novel that the Kevin Costner movie ‘Field of Dreams’ was based on. Once again I had a famous actor’s voice to use and once again the book is better than the movie. That’s a tall order in this case because ‘Field of Dreams’ is one of the greatest movies ever. ESPN rates it as the all time best baseball movie, even above ‘the Bad News Bears’ and ‘Bull Durham.’The only things that make me cry are the Gettysburg Address and the scene in ‘Field of Dreams’ where Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) finally works up the nerve to talk to the ghost catcher, who’s a younger version of his dad.Shoeless Joe is written in first person and it does include a lot of description, but its practically poetry and it’s mostly about Iowa. Ray’s father, who played baseball as a young man but never made it to the majors, owned a hardware store in Montana. Ray came to the University of Iowa for college, tried selling insurance, but was talked into farming corn by the girl he fell in love with and married in Iowa City. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the land too.Anyone who’s seen the movie knows that it’s not so much about what Ray can do for Shoeless Joe and the other 1918 White Sox as it is about what Baseball does for Ray. This book is about guys figuring out how to have relationships with other guys. Something we guys aren’t always good at.There are two major differences between the movie and the book. One is that Ray doesn’t just have to reconcile with his dead father, he also has an identical twin who ran away from home at fifteen that Ray hadn’t seen in twenty years. The other is that the character of the radical sixties writer played by James Earl Jones in the film is actually a real writer, J.D.Salinger.When Bethany and I first saw ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, we went out and got a copy of ‘An Affair to Remember’ with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr because the characters in the ‘Sleepless’ were so caught up and influenced by ‘An Affair.’

Do You like book Shoeless Joe (1999)?

I had forgotten about this book until it came up in class discussion with my students recently. I had read it in college at the recommendation of my brother, and I remember having loved it. A mixture of baseball lore and magic with JD Salinger as a character. What could be better? And I loved it again for this read. On the whole, I did not like sports. Except for baseball. I'm not a superfan or anything. I just love the idea of sitting in the sun and watching a baseball game, relaxing as the game unfolds. It's almost meditative. And a story like Shoeless Joe could not be possible in the world of any other sport aside from baseball.
—Sarah Zerwin

Just finished this and needed to re-watch the movie Field of Dreams that it inspired. While the novel has some characters, themes, and events that some might feel are missing from the film, on the whole, the film is faithful to the spirit of the book and in some ways even improves upon it. This book is about the love of baseball, known for decades as the American Pastime. The book is also about the love of the land and this is one of the themes that gets trimmed. But the love of baseball is embellished upon. It's a love passed down from fathers to sons and while this man has only one daughter, its clear that that love is being taught to her as well. Finally, the book and the movie are about having the courage to fearlessly follow your dreams when you know that they're in the right.The novel clearly falls into the Magical Realism school and the movie makes that even more apparent. It's about the beauty of dreams and one man's quixotic mission to follow his dreams. The connections with baseball are perfect for this theme. Baseball is evocative of a simpler, more innocent time when even the villains could be heroes. Surprisingly the book is more modest than the movie in some of its plot points. The book's protagonist is a bit more of the everyman while the movie emphasizes the fabulous dreamer part of his character.It's a measure of the magic of film that the movie evokes the beauty of the ball diamond and the worshipful air of expectancy associated with a game under the lights without coming off as religious, while some of the passages in the book that attempt the same descriptions seem weirdly evangelical.Ray's twin brother, the old farmer Eddie Scissons and Annie's Brother Mark all receive less emphasis in the film but their absense was not too deeply felt. Not omitted, but considerably changed was the authors's fascination with reclusive writers. James Earl Jones does a credible job as the formerly activist writer Terrence Mann in the film but this fictional writer is a poor substitute for the original J.D.Salinger of the book. However it is nice to see a black man in this film that is firmly centered on pre-Jackie Robinson baseball.I'd recommend this to baseball fans, fans of dreamers, fans of writers and to fans of fathers and sons. This read is well worth the time.

If you know me, you know I love baseball. I practically worship baseball. It’s like a religion to me. My team is the Detroit Tigers, but I love the game so much that I’m often happy to watch any teams. It doesn’t even have to be Major League teams. I’ll watch the minors, college, independents, even little league teams. And I like all things that have to do with baseball. Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, is one of my favorite movies. Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella, is the novel Field of Dreams is based on.As is usually the case, the novel is not quite like the movie. There are plenty of differences between the two. But the movie is still an excellent adaptation of the story Kinsella wrote. Shoeless Joe is like the Baseball Bible. If you want to understand my insane love for baseball, read this book. It talks about several interesting pieces of baseball history and, through dialog, it explains why baseball is so important to people like me. There’s also a very nice touch of humanity that is shared by several characters.I absolutely loved this book.
—Rob Darnell

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