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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2014
It’s not unusual for a popular book to be made into a movie. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. We all understand that, because of time constraints, a two-hour film can’t do justice to all the plot complexities and peripheral characters found in a novel. Those who started by reading the book may find the movie disappointing for that reason.

In the present case, I think the 1989 motion picture, Field of Dreams, is superior to the book, Shoeless Joe, on which it is based. The plotting is tighter, the acting is first rate, and the necessary omission of many details, and even of some characters, highlights the main theme far better.

Though it may be considered a baseball story, this is more precisely a fantasy about dreams, and how they affect our lives, for better or worse. It’s also about regrets and redemption, and the evolution of a father-son relationship. As to the latter, the youthful attitude of Ray toward his father, and how this is transformed later, is more clearly and touchingly resolved in the film.

The book is barely okay–but that’s as high a praise as I can give it. Possibly if I’d read it before seeing the movie I’d feel differently, but I don’t believe so. There are a couple of things about W. P. Kinsella’s writing that I found quite annoying.

One was his overabundant use of similes and metaphors. The words “like” and “as” are so densely scattered through the book I began to wonder if there was anything that was actually as it is, and not just “like” something else. A few examples.

¤ “His duffel bag upright beside him like a dun-colored torso”
¤ “Disappointment creeping across Salinger’s face slow as a crawling insect”
¤ “The question is heavy as a paperweight”
¤ “The staples crying like shot animals as they are wrenched from the wood”
¤ “Our little quarter-section [of farmland] is like a fly back-stroking in their crab bisque”
¤ “She...absorbs whatever is said around her, like a velvet dress collecting lint”

A few of these, carefully chosen and cleverly crafted, can help us feel what is happening (as good poetry does). But when they come by the dozen, it’s a different story. More is definitely not better!

The other concern I have is with the intrusion of W. P. Kinsella’s own religious views. He must have had a hurtful experience in the past with a church, or with an individual. Every “Christian” in the book is harsh, hypocritical, arrogant, and judgmental. One uses foul language, another collects pornography. As a Christian, I was saddened by this slanted portrayal. Are there professing Christians who fail miserably to live up to the name? Sure. But many more are warm, and caring individuals, honest and honourable in their dealings with others.

The capstone of this anti-religious bigotry comes when an old-timer named Eddie Scissons gives a long rant about baseball. What the author has done is pull phrase after phrase from the Bible, words are often from or about the Lord Himself, and apply them to the game. A small sampling.

“The word of salvation is baseball...the words that I speak are spirit, and are baseball....Praise the name of baseball. The word will set the captives free. The word will open the eyes of the blind. The word will raise the dead. Have you the word of baseball living inside you? Has the word of baseball become part of you?...Walk into the world and speak of baseball. Let the word flow through you like water, so that it may quicken the thirst of your fellow man.”

This is not only ridiculous. To one who seeks to honour Christ as I do, it is irreverent sacrilege. I’m convinced the instances of anti-Christian sentiment scattered through the book are unnecessary to the plot. In my opinion they are simply a product of the author’s bitterness, rising from some unfortunate experience earlier in his life. The only hint of this to be found in the movie is Annie’s criticism at a parent-teacher meeting of those who would ban books. Otherwise, the producers were wise enough to omit this biased theme. Forget the book. Watch the movie.
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on August 2, 2011
I was concerned about the condition of this book since it was an old first edition, but it was as described and arrived well packaged and on time.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2003
I saw "Field of Dreams" the year it came out, and read "Shoeless Joe" several months later. I was in high school at the time, deep into my obsession with baseball books (the Mets were having an off-year). I pounded through W.P. Kinsella's novel in days, then moved on to "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy", which freaked me out a little, and I never read Kinsella again.
Flash forward 13 years. I chanced to see "Field of Dreams" on TV (the TBS "Dinner and a Movie" version) while marooned in a hotel during a business trip -- it was that, or watch Monica Lewinsky's "Mr. Personality". I hadn't seen the movie in a few years, and was struck by how passionate it was about the 1960s. The film's Kinsellas are hippie-era college protestors, and the script is drenched with '60s radical authors (the film's Terrence Mann) and a very lively debate about book burning.
None of that's from the book.
The novel's central idea is the same -- an Iowa farmer hears "a voice" (a PA announcer, not a dreamy whisper voiced by "Himself", as the film's credits have us believe), plows under his corn and builds a baseball diamond from the Earth. The diamond remains derelict until Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the disgraced 1919 World Series-fixing Chicago Black Sox come to play ball. Add to the mix a small-town doctor whose major league career lasted 5 minutes, and a famously reclusive writer lured out of his shell by a love for the game.
But then also add into that mix an identical twin who's a carnival barker for circus freaks, and a senile farmer whose life is built around the lie that he once played baseball for the Tinker-to-Evers-Chance era Chicago Cubs... here's the stuff not incorporated into the screenplay. Neither are Kinsella or his wife '60s revolutionaries; they're just dreamers in their 20s.
It's Kinsella (the author)'s writing style that grates, more than anything else. Try as I might, I could never warm up to Kinsella (the character)'s penchant to think in dreamy Earth metaphors, or to speak in poetic paragraphs. His wife is described almost entirely by her bedroom habits. "Shoeless Joe" is as much about family as about baseball, but by the time the identical twin brother shows up (and there are still 50 pages to go), I found myself flipping ahead to hurry up and get to the point.
"Field of Dreams" is an excellent movie, with a focused message and lively dialogue. "Shoeless Joe" I will call an acquired taste, because you'll need to make a mental adjustment to the writing style, which is more syrupy than "literary".
One historical sidebar: Kinsella convinces J.D. Salinger to go to a Twins-Red Sox game at Fenway Park. He describes the game in convincing detail -- who played, who homered, who pitched for Boston (Mike Torrez, who after 1978 also became a mythological figure, whose ghost will one day populate a baseball movie filmed in the year 2050). And it's all fake! No game like this was ever played in 1979, the year Kinsella sets the novel. This has no signficance to anything but I was impressed by the effort. We never learn how that game ends -- Kinsella slams his head into a concrete beam, and spends the final innings in the infirmary. "Shoeless Joe" may be a spiritual fantasy, but I'm quite certain that this is the one scene in the book based on actual fact!
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on June 5, 2002
The book itself is good overall and is a story that all baseball fans should read. This book is a reading level that 12 years of age and older could read, and when you do, you will get tied up in reading it all the time. At first when you start reading, you might think that it's a boring book, but you shouldn't stop because it gets better. The book starts off with Ray Kinsella, the main character, hearing a voice saying, "If you build it, he will come." This meant that if Ray built a baseball feild, Shoeless Joe Jackson would come. These words inspired him to do so, and he did.
The reason this book was appealing to me was because I am into baseball myself. I think anyone could enjoy this book, baseball fan or not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2002
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella is an inspiring story of Ray Kinsella, a not-so-typical farmer from Iowa who just loves baseball. One day while he's out in his cornfield, he hears the voice of a baseball announcer say, "If you build it, he will come." Like a vision from a crystal ball, he realises and sees that "he" is Shoeless Joe Jackson, and "it" is a baseball field. Although he's called crazy by the rest of the town, his daughter and wife stand beside him. The voice, and Shoeless Joe keep him motivated as they lead him on a journey all across USA to fufill his dreams.
Shoeless Joe is a beautifully written story about going for your dreams, the American way, and remembering true values of life. It's a great book, and it's truly inspiring. I recommend you to BUY BUY BUY!
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on December 4, 2001
"If you build it he will come", an unfamiliar voice softly whispers in through the cornfield. These few words change Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella's life. From minimal instruction Ray tears up a part of his precious corn crop on a hunch. In its place he builds a baseball field for his long dead idol. Shoeless Joe brings together the love a son has for his father, and the power of belief in a legend. The book also has a movie that was introduced in 1989, and it stars Kevin Costner. Although the movie definitely made history, the book brings a lot more things to the reader's attention. For example the movie never says anything about his long lost twin brother Richard, who left home early in life never to return until Ray builds the field. The wind like voices and the baseball field are on the beginning to the real adventure, and I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who wants to return to their pastime.
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on October 8, 2001
The book Shoeless Joe is the base for Field of Dreams. Shoeless Joe is a great book from him watching his father hood hero to him playing catch wiht his dad.
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on August 28, 2001
The prose may be over the top at times, but what a preposterously brilliant, creative book: can one even conceive there would be a book where two of the principal characters were JD Salinger and the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson? As absurd as the plot is on its face -- an Iowa farmer is ordered by a "voice" to build a ballfield so the tortured soul of Shoeless Joe Jackson can play once more -- we are gladly swept along in a willing suspension of disbelief, as this marvelous, mystical, beautifully told tale unfolds. As much as I loved the movie Field of Dreams, the book is much much better, and is a true work of literary imagination, not just a book about baseball, although it is that too.
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on August 15, 2001
As an author with my debut novel in its initial release, I sincerely admire SHOELESS JOE by W.P. Kinsella. This novel was made into the famous film FIELD OF DREAMS, perhaps the greatest film about baseball (or was it about America?)ever made. I prefer SHOELESS JOE to FIELD OF DREAMS. I saw the film first, and when I read the book, I was impressed by the increased depth to SHOELESS JOE. The novel blends fantasy and reality in a story that is simple yet complex. It tells the tale of Ray Kinsella who plows down his crops because he hears a voice that tells him to. Shoeless Joe Jackson, his Black Sox teammates, Ray's father, and other athletes mystically arrive on this makeshift playing field. The reclusive (and we assume dreamer) J.D. Salinger also becomes involved in the plot. In SHOELESS JOE, W.P. Kinsella takes an inventive story line and uses it in support of the strongest of all possible themes. This novel is great. Order it--it will come.
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on August 15, 2001
As an author with my debut novel in its initial release, I sincerely admire SHOELESS JOE by W.P. Kinsella. This novel was made into the famous film FIELD OF DREAMS, perhaps the greatest film about baseball (or was it about America?)ever made. I prefer SHOELESS JOE to FIELD OF DREAMS. I saw the film first, and when I read the book, I was impressed by the increased depth to SHOELESS JOE. The novel blends fantasy and reality in a story that is simple yet complex. It tells the tale of Ray Kinsella who plows down his crops because he hears a voice that tells him to. Shoeless Joe Jackson, his Black Sox teammates, Ray's father, and other athletes mystically arrive on this makeshift playing field. The reclusive (and we assume dreamer) J.D. Salinger also becomes involved in the plot. In SHOELESS JOE, W.P. Kinsella takes an inventive story line and uses it in support of the strongest of all possible themes. This novel is great. Order it--it will come.
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