16 September 2016

Go The Distance

Tonight I heard the news that WP Kinsella ended his life, taking full advantage of Canada's new law on assisted dying. He was one of my favourite authors.

I have read all of his books, some several times over but, there is one book in particular that I have never read; his most famous book, Shoeless Joe. I'll explain this odd exception later.

As a writer, Mr. Kinsella was mostly silent since the late 90's releasing only one book after an accident derailed his career. Like classic architecture, his stories are timeless and a marvel to take in. At some point after ebay surfaced, I made a point of collecting first editions of all the books I loved. I'm happy to report I've got most of the first editions WP Kinsella released.

There's one book that I can't seem to keep on my bookshelf though, "The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt and Other Baseball Stories" I enjoy this collection of short stories so much that I give it away to people I think would enjoy it. I've purchased several copies over the years and just realized I'm out of stock, again.

When WP was promoting Magic Time, I was fortunate enough to catch him in person at the Word on the Street festival in Calgary where we spoke for some time after his reading. Afterwards, he signed my copy of Magic Time along with "Go the distance."

Earlier this year I was in discussions with his agent, Carolyn, to see if I could sell his books through my companies online ebook store as well as the Walmart ebook store, which we operated. I could tell by the way that Carolyn spoke that WP was not just a client, but a very close friend.

In 1992, I heard Kinsella being interviewed on CBC radio one day and was intrigued, sounded like an interesting story. I stopped at the local bookstore in Edmonton, where I was living at the time, and purchased a copy of The Winter Helen Dropped By. I enjoyed this book so much, I immediately went back to the store to purchase another book by the same author. It was after reading Box Socials that I became a WP Kinsella fan.

"Every story is about sex or death, or sometimes both"

Kinsella's stories have a way of pulling you into the story, with scenes so vivid and characters so real as you read the book, you could swear you were there, that your name was just omitted by the editor to save some ink. But, you were there, man. Frankie Fencepost, Silas Ermineskin, Mike Houle, Ray Kinsella, Charlie O'Day, Gideon Clark, Joe McCoy, Mike Street and many others kept me company over the years as Kinsella wove story into story and created a very real story world. One filled with laughter and wonder.

Funny thing is, I'm not a baseball fan, I wouldn't go out of my way to see a baseball game, but his stories about baseball are so well crafted that you can't help but fall in love with the game, and every aspect of it. I am a big hockey fan, played the game for over 40 years and I've never once felt the same about hockey as I do about baseball after reading one of his baseball stories.

WP Kinsella is best known for Shoeless Joe, the only novel of his I have not read. Here's why: The movie Field of Dreams was based on Shoeless Joe and while I'm a huge Kinsella fan, I am also a huge fan of the movie. I would go so far as to say it's one of my favourite movies of all time. Do you see where I'm going with this? As you know, in most cases, the book is always better than the movie and I just don't want to tarnish my love for the flick. So, I've steered clear of the novel for fear of it wrecking the movie for me. So, I have an uncracked first edition copy of Shoeless Joe that is collecting dust... paid almost $200 for a book that I've not even opened.

Maybe it's time to take WP's advice and go the distance... pick it up and finally read it. I think I will.

Thank you Mr. Kinsella for blessing us with your marvelous stories.


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