cover image The Dixon Cornbelt League: And Other Baseball Stories

The Dixon Cornbelt League: And Other Baseball Stories

W. P. Kinsella. HarperCollins Publishers, $18 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017188-9

Once again blending magical and spiritual themes with a baseball setting, Kinsella (Shoeless Joe; Box Socials) takes a light, breezy approach in this mildly satisfying but somewhat redundant collection of nine tales. The plot pattern is remarkably similar from story to story, beginning with the introduction of a seemingly incredible, silly or trivial anomaly that often conceals a darker conflict. A gentle spoof of magical realism, ``The Baseball Wolf,'' raises the issue of our animal nature through a slick-fielding shortstop in an obscure Latin-American league who tries to jump-start his career by undergoing a mystical lupine transformation. The title story follows a parallel trail, introducing an ominous, barely known Iowa minor league that actually functions as a vehicle for repopulating the dying farm towns in the region. ``Eggs'' deals more directly with a serious theme, its protagonist a pitcher who struggles with rural isolation when the loss of his fastball forces premature retirement to his opulent Alberta home and a wife who is unsympathetic to his desire to return to the game. Kinsella clearly is steeped in his sports motif, churning out stories that read like lightning and tantalize the reader with fascinating scenarios. But, like a meal that consists of nothing but appetizers, the similarity of tone and structure ultimately becomes tiresome, and Kinsella's reluctance to plumb the depths of his characters' struggles may leave readers hungering for some meatier material. (Feb.)