The book that changed your life: W.P. Kinsella

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      With this year’s edition of the Word on the Street festival set to run from September 28 to 30, we asked some of the writers on the wildly diverse bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?

      Here’s what W.P. Kinsella told us. Kinsella is the renowned B.C.–based author perhaps best known for his novel Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into the Hollywood film Field of Dreams. His latest book is the baseball-themed Butterfly Winter.

      He’ll be reading from his work at 2:40 p.m. on September 30, in the Canada Writes Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      Mine would be Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.

      I stumbled on a copy while in high school, about 1952, and it suddenly validated my ambitions. I had known from about age six that I wanted to be a writer, but at Eastwood High School in Edmonton we studied one Shakespeare play, a J.M. Barrie play, and a book of dull essays. No fiction. And what I could find at the library generally failed to excite me, though I loved Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees.

      The Illustrated Man showed such imagination, and the figurative language stunned me. I said, "This is what I want to do with my life."

      Many years later I met Ray Bradbury. I introduced myself, but he obviously had never heard of me, so I didn't pursue the matter. Then maybe seven years ago I received an email from Bradbury. He had read Shoeless Joe, loved it, and wanted to tell me so. I was able to let him know that it was The Illustrated Man and The Golden Apples of the Sun that inspired my career, that let a young Alberta boy know it was acceptable to sprinkle my novels and stories with clear, colourful, mouth-watering similes, just as he had done in those remarkable books of stories.