Discussion Threads:
Salinger, Shoeless Joe,
and Moonlight Graham

Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996
From: Michael Oriard
Subject: Salinger?

I received a call from someone asking if I knew of any discussion of the J.D. Salinger character in SHOELESS SHOE. I couldn't help him. Can anyone out there?

Michael Oriard

Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996
From: J.L. McClure

I'm not sure what's meant below by "discussion." I've taught the book for three years in my Literature of Baseball course but do not off the top of my head recall any printed "discussion" of the character. One of the intriguing aspects of Kinsella's fiction is his mixing fiction with fact. There is a real life author J.D. Salinger who is, as in the novel, a recluse. But that's about all I've discovered that's similar between the actual Salinger and the Shoeless Joe Salinger. Living here in Iowa City (where the novel takes place), I've tried to track down the story by Salinger referred to in the novel that includes a character named "Kinsella," but I think it's fiction. On the other hand, the player/doctor from Chisholm MN (forget his name right now) does appear as playing one inning with no at-bats in the B-Ball Encyclepedia. But beyond the appearance of his name and scant stats, I strongly suspect all the rest of his character is also fiction. A bookseller friend of mine here in IC who knows Kinsella well has told me that Kinsella won't talke about where fact and fiction diverge in his work. But I'd be very interested in what anyone else might know about the Salinger character in the book.

J. L. McCLure

Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996
From: Joe Price

In respone to the request by Michael Oriard and the reply by J.L. McClure, I'd like to offer a few comments on Kinsella and _Shoeless Joe_. In the novel, Salinger figures as Ray's life-long heroic author, now a reclusive personality no longer involved in writing. Ray determines that he can retrieve the literary productivity of his favorite author-hero by taking him to a Red Sox game. In the novel Salinger joins Ray in pursuit of Moonlight Graham and then the wonder of playing with and watching Shoeless Joe in the Iowa baseball cornfield.

In the movie version of "Field of Dreams," several shifts and condensations take place, perhaps none more dramatic than the transformation of Salinger's personage in the novel to that of Terence Mann in the movie. The movie also makes Ray's favorite writer an African American, and it shifts his vocation to that of authoring computer software.

A few years ago I discussed some of these changes with Kinsella when he was a guest here at Whittier College. He indicated that one of the reasons for transforming the novel's character Salinger into the movie's character Mann was one of trying to avoid possible litigation.

Following up on the McClure's reference to Kinsella's desire to blend "fact" and fiction in his novels, I recall that Kinsella also remarked that the main thing that he seeks to do in writing fiction is to tell a good story, not to make a point, not to advocate a position, not to seek out some level of hidden truth--all of which heightened my sensitivity to the narrator's observations about a baseball stadium at night being more like a church than a church.

Joe Price

Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996
From: Donald Johnson

Two messages from Don Johnson (kb).

To J.L. McClure--

The Kinsella character in Salinger is Richard Kinsella, a boy Holden talks about who is always digressing when he gets up in class to talk about something, pp. 183-184 of the Little Brown edition. dj

Two articles have been published by Fred Boe on Salinger,. both of which might be relevant to the questions about Salinger: "Salinger and Sport" in Arete II.2, and "Shoeless Joe Jackson Meets J.D. Salinger" in Arete I.1. There are also about 12 articles on Kinsella which might deal with the issue.

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996
From: David B. Merrell

Archibald "Moonlight" Graham is indeed listed in the Baseball Encyclopedia as having participated in one game and as having died in Minnesota in the mid-60s. He is a character in Kinsella's _Shoeless Joe_. Does anyone know whether he became a doctor or what career he followed in Minnesota?

The Salinger references seem to echo the legends of Salinger, but offer no real commentary or critique of his work. Not only Salinger but many of the "ghostly" players are part of blending the "real" world with the "fictional." That blending creates much of the charm of the novel (as well as the movie, which may work better for people who have read the book).

David B. Merrell, ACU

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996
From: Richard C. Crepeau

Moonlight Graham indeed was a doctor and in fact most of what Kinsella tells us about his background is historically accurate. The obituary in the novel is taken directly from the obit in the local newspaper in Virginia, Minnesota.

Dick Crepeau

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996
From: Ronald S. Marmarelli

Some facts about Archibald "Moonlight" Graham's life are contained in an article in the Oct. 2, 1993, issue of Editor & Publisher about Veda F. Ponikvar, editor of the Free Press and Tribune Press weeklies in Chisholm, Minn. Graham started his medical career there in 1909, after getting his medical degree at the University of Maryland and doing post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins. He was on the staff of Rood Hospital in Chisholm for six years, then was hired to be school doctor in 1915, a job he held for 44 years. He conducted a 13-year study of students' hearts and blood pressure that received attention in medical journals. He died in 1965 at the age of 85.

Ponikvar is the editor who provided Ray Kinsella with information about Graham and a photo of Graham in his Giants uniform. The E&P article includes the photo made into a baseball card.

On another note: Does anybody know where I can get a copy of Eliot Asinof's novel Man on Spikes? I read it many years ago and have always remembered it as one of the best novels about baseball.

Thanks. Best wishes.

Ron Marmarelli
Department of Journalism
Central Michigan University

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