The Tales We Tell: Perspectives on the Short Story

By Barbara Lounsberry; Susan Lohafer et al. | Go to book overview

Telling It Again: "Stories into Novels"

W. P. Kinsella

I think the only difference between novels and short stories is that a novel is a collection of short stories where you don't necessarily have to have a climax at the end of each one. That's been my experience. Shoeless Joe ( 1982) is five stories woven together. I think my novel, Box Socials ( 1991), is about six stories. Both of these novels started out as short stories. I wrote a story called "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa" in 1978, just as I was leaving Iowa City. The story was published in an anthology. The anthology was reviewed in Publisher's Weekly, which is the Bible of the book trade. A young editor at Houghton Mifflin in Boston saw the review of the anthology, which had a two- line mention of my story. He was right out of editors' school; he didn't know that editors really don't want to hear from writers. Editors certainly don't want to go looking for writers; they get more stuff in over the transom than they can handle in a lifetime. He hadn't realized this yet, so he wrote me a letter and said, "Gee, we're all baseball fans here at Houghton-Mifflin. I haven't seen your story yet, but the idea of this person building a baseball diamond in his cornfield is so wonderful that if this is a novel, we really would want to see it, and if it isn't, it should be."

Well, it wasn't, and I decided that it should be.

So I started thinking novel, and I knew that I always wanted to write something about J. D. Salinger because he makes himself conspicuous by hiding. Who else do you know who hasn't published in thirty-five years and still manages to stay on the front pages? He put himself through college working as an actor on a cruise ship, so he knows how to hold an audience, and he has held his audience forever.

The name Ray Kinsella came about because I went back and reread all of Salinger's collected and uncollected work and discovered that he had used two characters named Kinsella in his fiction-- Richard in The Catcher in the Rye

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