Thursday, February 4, 2010
MAGICAL REALISM & BASEBALL
W. P. Kinsella's The Iowa Baseball Conspiracy is a delightful blend of magical realism and baseball history. The protagonist, Gideon Clarke, has been infected by his dead father's seemingly sole knowledge of a month-long supra-extra-innings 1908 baseball tilt between the Chicago Cubs and an all-star team of Iowa farmers from a local baseball league, whose entire history (along with that of the original town) seems to have been collectively and completely wiped from people's memories. No archive or newspaper of the day records such a notable tilt. Yet Clarke, and his father before him, are obsessed with researching (in vain) and proving (nearly in vain) the existence of the confederation. Although tantalizing clues and memories surface, it is not until a special night that Gideon, along with his best friend, slip through a dimensional crack in the time-space continuum (yeah, I watch Star Trek!), and the truth of the forgotten events come to light. As with all of Kinsella's books that I have tried, there is a soft humor and evident love of baseball, and his stories often unravel comfortably (can anyone really say they didn't like the movie Field of Dreams, which is based on Kinsella's stories). Although at times it can lag, you come to care for the characters and root for them, and you want to know their ultimate fate. For me, one character, Sunny, Gideon's wife, touched me the most, because she seems to be suffering from the same condition that my ex-wife had (borderline personality disorder). There are many subthemes, such as loyalty and friendship, Native American rights and mysticism, unrequited love, determination and obssession). It is a nice read and I recommend it.