William Steele is an English professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. He has previously taught at Cascade College in Portland, OR and at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, OK. His research and teaching interests include the Civil War, Mark Twain, Holocaust literature, and sports literature.
Steele’s MA thesis explored the father-son dynamics in Shoeless Joe and Field of Dreams, and his doctoral dissertation examined the various types of identity used in W.P. Kinsella’s baseball novels. The dissertation was expanded into his first book, A Member of the Local Nine: Baseball and Identity in the Fiction of W.P. Kinsella. It was this book that paved the way for Steele’s most recent book, Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella, the first ever biography on the controversial Canadian author.
Willie is also the editor of NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, published twice a year by University of Nebraska Press, and he co-directs the annual conference the journal sponsors each spring in Tempe, Arizona. He is a regular presenter at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.
He is currently working on his next book, an exploration of the role major league baseball played in the weeks following 9/11. In his free time, Steele enjoys running and traveling with his wife and daughters. A lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, he still holds out hope of being drafted (or at least throwing out a first pitch for the team).
About Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella
April 21st, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of the film Field of Dreams, based on the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Kinsella and his work were thrust into the limelight back in 1989 with the release of the blockbuster movie. The anniversary of Field of Dreams were acknowledged with special anniversary screenings of the film in June, and the publication of a biography of W.P. Kinsella by William Steele.
With the success of Shoeless Joe, Kinsella’s other works began to gain more attention as well, including a series of short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin. Although many readers praised the stories for their humour and biting social commentary, Kinsella’s success reignited criticism of his appropriation of Indigenous voices for his own benefit, and of what some claimed was overt racism.
Achievement in his professional life was tempered by chaos in his personal life, including health problems, and failed marriages. When long-term kidney issues resurfaced causing acute pain, Kinsella made his final arrangements. Never one to shy away from controversy, he insisted that his decision to end his life by physician-assisted suicide must be mentioned in the press release following his death.
Though friends and family would remember him as stubborn, complicated, curmudgeonly, honest and loyal, among a host of other adjectives, Kinsella answered, “I’m a story teller [and] my greatest satisfaction comes from leaving [while] making people laugh and also leaving them with a tear in the corner of their eye.”
Having been granted full access to Kinsella’s personal diaries, correspondence and unpublished notes—and with hours of personal interviews with Kinsella, his friends and his family—biographer William Steele offers insight into Kinsella’s personal life intertwined with the critical analysis and commentary the author’s fiction has inspired.