W. P. Kinsella’s magical realism in ‘Shoeless Joe’ and ‘The Iowa Baseball Confederacy’

If you watched Ken Burns’ 1994 documentary “Baseball,” perhaps you felt the magic in the sport. PBS called the film, “An American epic overflowing with heroes and hopefuls, scoundrels and screwballs.” If you sense this magic at the ball field or even while watching a game on TV, perhaps you can understand why Canadian author W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016) used magical realism in Shoeless Joe, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and his later novel Butterfly Winter.

If you watched the feature film based on Shoeless Joe, “Field of Dreams,” or the movie version of “The Natural,” you might ask how anyone could write sincerely about baseball without magical realism. Shoeless Joe Jackson (1887-1951) was (and is) considered one of baseball best players with the third highest batting average in the major leagues. Even now, many dispute the claim he was involved in the 1919 “Black Sox scandal” in which White Sox players (including Jackson) were blamed for trying to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Jackson–whose participation is doubted–was banned from baseball. In some ways, the book and film redeem him even though MLB never would.

The spirit of the magic is aptly summed up in the New York Times review of Shoeless Joe that includes the following excerpt that appeared after a character was discovered to have been lying about his baseball experience: “I imagine Eddie Scissons has decided, ‘If I can’t have what I want most in life, then I’ll pretend I had it in the past, and talk about it and live it and relive it until it is real and solid and I can hold it to my heart like a precious child. Once I’ve experienced it so completely, no one can ever take it away from me.'”

This is the way of sports. When actuality doesn’t meet our needs, dreams suffice.

Wikipedia says,” The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986) another book blending fantasy and magical realism, recounts an epic baseball game a minor league team played against the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs” and Butterfly Winter as “The story of Julio and Esteban Pimental, twins whose divine destiny for baseball begins with games of catch in the womb, the novel marks a return to form, combining his long-held passions of baseball and magical realism.”

Great reading if you’re a baseball fan or even if you aren’t. Eitherway, you’ll suspect that magic exists by the time you get done reading the books.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels and short stories from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

‘The House of the Spirits’

“When I start I am in a total limbo. I don’t have any idea where the story is going or what is going to happen or why I am writing it. I only know that—in a way that I can’t even understand at the time—I am connected to the story. I have chosen that story because it was important to me in the past or it will be in the future.” – Isabel Allende

I am re-reading The House of the Spirits for the first time since it came out in English in 1985, most likely from the copy I read then. Allende is one of my favorite writers (perhaps above all others) because the stories she tells resonate with me as does the fact she begins each of her books–and I’ve read most of them–without knowing where the story is going. The House of the Spirits didn’t disappoint me in the mid-1980s, and yet, I was afraid to go back to it for fear the most perfect novel would have become imperfect over time like a first lover you don’t dare meet again after both of you have grown up.

I can’t imagine knowing where a story is going when I start writing it and fear that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to write it, or that if I wrote it anyway it would be less true. As I re-read this magical realism novel, I’m not disappointed the second time out and I feel inspired now as I did over thirty years ago; I see again that the story unfolded as it had to unfold because it was (and is) all of a piece that existed in and of itself before Allende wrote the first line: “Barrabus came to us by sea.”

“I think that the stories choose me,” she has said.

When I chanced across author Mark David Gerson’s book The Voice of the Muse in 2008, I was surprised to find a book for writers that acknowledged the truth that stories exist untold until we find them and/or until they find us. As I wrote in my Amazon review of his book, “Gerson believes stories pre-exist, waiting hidden away in dreams to come alive. But while I’ve worked more or less as a blacksmith hammering them into this world, he provides ways to tune into the ‘muse stream’ whereupon life flows onto the page like a warm sweet river.”

I suspect Allende knows this to be true. Otherwise, she couldn’t have written this:

He could hardly guess that the solemn, cubic, dense, pompous house, which sat like a hat amidst its green and geometric surroundings, would end up full of protuberances and incrustations, of twisted staircases that led to empty spaces, of turrets, or small windows and could not be opened, doors hanging in midair, crooked hallways, and portholes that linked the living quarters so that people could communicate during the siesta, all of which were Clara’s inspiration.

I’m relieved to discover that I’m still in love with this novel and that life might have been better if I hadn’t stayed away from it for so many years.

Malcolm

My stories come upon me out of nowhere and that’s for the best.

Some books are a joy to write

(A word from your sponsor (AKA, me).

If you hike, jog, kayak, or so anything else that requires effort and stamina, you know that when everything within you (mind and body) is functioning optimally, you reach what’s called a flow state–in the zone, some say. Writers feel that flow state as well when the words are coming off the keyboard and onto the screen without struggle. There are multiple sensations here, but they can be summed up as joy.

I felt this way while working on the four novels in my Florida Folk Magic Series set in the panhandle near the Apalachicola River (shown above). While writing in a flow state, I saw in my mind’s eye a movie of the stories unfolding and typed up what I saw. I loved the characters, the locations, and the themes, so I felt that I was working on a view of the 1950s’ racial tensions in the sunshine state that needed to be told.

I began with Conjure Woman’s Cat and quickly discovered I was writing about my childhood and all the days I lived in Florida starting in the first grade came flowing back to mind. I was writing this book for myself but happily found out that others liked it, too, and that AudioFile Magazine loved the audiobook edition with a great review and an earphones award. 

Melinda, my publisher, asked if I’d thought about a sequel. No, not really. Funny thing. Once she asked the question I began seeing a movie of the book that would become Eulalie and Washerwoman. When Facebook friends found out I was working on a second book, they said, “nothing better happen to that kitty (Lena).” I promised that the conjure woman’s cat would be okay. Having people check in and ask about their favorite characters was a new experience for me and added to my flow state.

So now I’ve written four books, including Lena and Fate’s Arrows. It’s time to stop. I remember my creative writing instructors warning us not to write past the ending. Fate’s Arrows, the only book in the series that isn’t told from Lena’s point of view, seems to be a natural place to stop inasmuch as the conjure woman is feeling her age–older than dirt–and the protagonist (Pollyanna) is moving from west Florida to Tallahassee (where I grew up).

I’ll always be tempted to search for that flow state again with these characters. Never say never, right? 

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Save money on Kindle with the four-book set.

Need Help Christmas Shopping

If you have put off your Christmas shopping until the last minute, here are a few ideas from your host (AKA, me) for your quality friends. Books, of course, because books are what I do.

Special Investigative Reporter

This book can be classified as a sarcastic, satirical humorous mystery. It’s a great book for people who like to laugh and who also happen to distrust authority–as my main character Jock Stewart does.  And as I do. Jock is probably my favorite protagonist because he reminds me of me, the kind of guy who’s likely to say anything to anybody, especially people who are really full of themselves.

Fate’s Arrows

This is my most recent novel, the fourth in my Florida Folk Magic Series which began with Conjure Woman’s Cat. I’m partial to the series because it’s set where I grew up, with places and people I knew.

Continue reading “Need Help Christmas Shopping”

The magic in my books

One way or the other, most of my novels include magic. Over time, this blog has often sought a comfortable niche. Apparently, that niche is magic even though I do a few book reviews, some posts about writing, conservation and wilderness, and some opinion posts.

The existence of this niche has become apparent of late when I see that most of my readers are stopping by to read posts about magic (many of those posts are old) and fewer readers are stopping by to look at everything else. My views of consensual reality and magic are more blurred than most people’s, meaning that I often think I’m writing realism and others think I’m writing something else. So, here’s how the books sort themselves out:

  1. Florida Folk Magic Series (Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, and Fate’s Arrows – Magical realism based on hoodoo (conjure) as it’s generally viewed in the South. These are set in Florida.
  2. Mountain Song and At Sea – Both of these books are realism, but with fantasy elements and (in Mountain Song) spirituality in the form of a vision quest. These are set in Montana, Florida, and the South China Sea.
  3. The Sun Singer and Sarabande – Contemporary fantasy set primarily in Glacier National Park. The Sun Singer follows a hero’s journey theme and Sarabande (the sequel) follows a heroine’s journey theme.
  4. Widely Scattered Ghosts – paranormal short stories in a variety of settings.
  5. En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom – Short story within the Florida folklore and magical realism genres.
  6. Emily’s Stories (audiobook) – Three contemporary fantasy short stories. One of the stories is set in Montana and two are set in north Florida.

So, apparently, I’m writing about magic when I’m not even aware I’m writing about magic.

Malcolm

‘Fate’s Arrows’ – Update

  • The Kindle edition of Fate’s Arrows will be 99₵ on October 4th from Amazon.
  • The novel is available on these sites: Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop, Scribd, IndieBound, Powell’s, Google Books, Apple, and as a B&N Nook book.
  • We are still waiting on the printer for the hardcover edition.
  • Bookstores can order the paperback via their Ingram Catalog.
  • Listed on the NewPages website’s new releases.
  • You can watch the trailer on the home page of my website.

Malcolm

Books: ‘The Mermaid’s Sister’ by Carrie Anne Noble

What a delightful story to re-read on a cold, windy day. I mentioned it here before in a post about magical realism books on Amazon. Published in 2015, this was Carrie Anne Noble’s debut young adult novel and it’s done well. (It has won several awards, has 3,394 ratings on Amazon and is a bestseller in the folklore category.)

Publisher’s Description

There is no cure for being who you really are…

In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions; by night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphaned infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.

One day, Clara discovers iridescent scales just beneath her sister’s skin: Maren is becoming a mermaid and must be taken to the sea or she will die. So Clara, O’Neill, and the mermaid-girl set out for the shore. But the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening Maren.

And always in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?

Noble says on her website that her favorite authors are Mervyn Peake, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Ardyth Kennelly, Catherine Cookson, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. If you like any or all of them, you’ll probably enjoy The Mermaid’s Sister as well. Noble published The Gold-Son in 2017.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Time for a book sale

 

Okay, so I was lazy and didn’t create an updated version of this graphic that says the sale is live now.

Description:

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet. 

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Warning: Today’s My Birthday

Yes, I’m a Leo and darned proud of it.

–Malcolm

People often ask if authors compete with each other

Sort of, kind of, maybe, if we’re up for the same award, but usually not.

In fact, if Amazon (or some unbiased guru) tells me that if I like book ABC, I will probably like book XYZ, I’ll probably take a look. Sure, I know Amazon wants me to buy more than I can afford to buy. But, if another author is writing books that Amazon thinks are competing with mine, I will probably want to read them. Why? I write the kinds of books I like to read, so if anyone else is doing it, I want to find their books.

Sometimes I’m surprised. I was looking for magical realism books this morning and found one on Amazon that came from an author I’d never heard of from a publisher I’d never heard of that had almost 4,000 customer reviews. After getting rid of a few initial feelings of jealousy, I wanted to find out how they did this. Usually, 4,000 customer reviews is something you expect for titles by famous writers. So how does somebody “come out of nowhere” and get that kind of response?

Unless one is a very avid magical realism reader and buys every new release, I doubt that my books are competing with this book. I have a feeling that I’m going to read this book. But first, I want to know how 4,000 people found out about it and took the time to post a review. Most people don’t review the books they read, so if 4,000 is a fraction of the book’s total number of readers, wow!

As writers, our first duty is telling stories. After that, the whole business falls into the black hole of marketing and promotion. So, when we see somebody who is successful, we want to know how they did it. We learn from each other, sometimes at conferences and panels and workshops, and sometimes through information on authors’ websites and interviews. Chances are, we will never be able to duplicate another author’s road to success exactly–or even inexactly. What s/he did, is probably so closely linked to who they are, where they are, the hundreds of choices of a lifetime they have made, that there is no way to “become them” and “do what they did.”

Perhaps we’ll learn one tip or a hundred tips. If so, we’re a little better off than we were before!

Malcolm