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Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil

Overview

As the New York Yankees' star centerfielder from 1936 to 1951, Joe DiMaggio is enshrined in America's memory as the epitome in sports of grace, dignity, and that ineffable quality called "class." But his career after retirement, starting with his nine-month marriage to Marilyn Monroe, was far less auspicious. Writers like Gay Talese and Richard Ben Cramer have painted the private DiMaggio as cruel or self-centered. Now, Jerome Charyn restores the image of this American icon, ...

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Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil

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Overview

As the New York Yankees' star centerfielder from 1936 to 1951, Joe DiMaggio is enshrined in America's memory as the epitome in sports of grace, dignity, and that ineffable quality called "class." But his career after retirement, starting with his nine-month marriage to Marilyn Monroe, was far less auspicious. Writers like Gay Talese and Richard Ben Cramer have painted the private DiMaggio as cruel or self-centered. Now, Jerome Charyn restores the image of this American icon, looking at DiMaggio's life in a more sympathetic light.

DiMaggio was a man of extremes, superbly talented on the field but privately insecure, passive, and dysfunctional. He never understood that for Monroe, on her own complex and tragic journey, marriage was a career move; he remained passionately committed to her throughout his life. He allowed himself to be turned into a sports memorabilia money machine. In the end, unable to define any role for himself other than "Greatest Living Ballplayer," he became trapped in "a horrible kind of minutia." But where others have seen little that was human behind that minutia, Charyn in Joe DiMaggio presents the tragedy of one of American sports' greatest figures.

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Editorial Reviews

Lincoln Journal Star - Charles Stephen
"[An] elegantly written and moving book. . . . This slender, nuanced mini-biography is as brilliant a piece of writing as I have ever read, with prose that is poetic, with a deep understanding of and feeling for DiMaggio."—Charles Stephen, Lincoln Journal Star
San Francisco Chronicle - Allen Barra
"This is the first book any DiMaggio fan should read."—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle
New York Times - Sam Roberts
"Jerome Charyn applies his considerable skills as a novelist to exploring the gnawing mysteries surrounding a man who 'was brutal in his devotion to the game.'"—Sam Roberts, New York Times
Michael Chabon
“Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature and one of only three now writing whose work makes me truly happy to be a reader." — Michael Chabon
Neil D. Isaacs
“Charyn […] is an American treasure…. Among this book’s virtues are brilliant passages of impassioned writing, […] and Charyn’s mastery of the popular culture in which baseball legends belong and thrive.”—Neil D. Isaacs, author of The Great Molinas and All the Moves
David Margolick
"An intimate and compassionate meditation on DiMaggio which, while elegantly dissecting his genius on the field, does him the equally important honor of placing no more on his shoulders than he can reasonably bear. Charyn reminds us that everything about DiMaggio was extraordinary, including his limitations."—David Margolick, author, Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink.
Randy Roberts
"Jerome Charyn's meditation on Joe DiMaggio elegantly explores what DiMaggio meant to America and the price he paid for making it all look so damn easy."—Randy Roberts, Distinguished Professor of History, Purdue University
New York Times
"Jerome Charyn applies his considerable skills as a novelist to exploring the gnawing mysteries surrounding a man who ''was brutal in his devotion to the game.''"—Sam Roberts, New York Times
— Sam Roberts
San Francisco Chronicle

"This is the first book any DiMaggio fan should read."—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle

— Allen Barra

Library Journal
A child of the Bronx (i.e., Yankee Stadium), the versatile Charyn-novelist, short story writer, memoirist, critic, playwright-has written before about baseball, most notably in his novel The Seventh Babe. He also penned a novel about Emily Dickinson, and his ultimate praise of DiMaggio in this rumination is to compare DiMaggio's kind of poetry to Dickinson's. The book is not likely to change anyone's mind about DiMaggio, who remains a not particularly likable fellow here, as this is not a hagiography; it's much more thoughtful than that. This will be best savored by those who are already fans of Charyn, Joltin' Joe, the Yankees generally—or Marilyn Monroe. (Fans of Dickinson may be confused.)—M.H. — "Sneak Peak," Booksmack! 1/20/11
Kirkus Reviews

A novelist's sympathetic meditation on the life of the legendary New York Yankee.

This latest in the publisher's Icons of Americaseries is, perhaps, best understood as a response to Richard Ben Cramer'sJoe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life(2000), a critical biography that, while acknowledging DiMaggio's preternatural gifts as a ballplayer, exposed the Yankee Clipper as an off-the-field nightmare of a person: friendless, greedy, and cheap. DiMaggio's mark on the game—three MVPs, 13-time All-Star, nine World Series championships, the untouchable 56-game hitting streak (see Kostya Kennedy's 56 for in-depth coverage)—and place in American cultural mythology endures. How was it that this splendid athlete lived a private life so appallingly at odds with his image? Charyn (The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel, 2010, etc.) never contradicts Cramer's unsavory facts, but instead puts a kinder spin on them, painting Joltin' Joe as a baseball idiot savant, defined and ennobled by his isolation in centerfield and the batter's box, comfortable only within the confines of a game he perfectly understood, where his fierce will, intensity and pride drove him to win and made him, if not loved, certainly revered by the fans. The author identifies DiMaggio's need to be watched and desire for approval as the secret weakness of this shy, insecure man. Indeed, argues Charyn, DiMaggio's flaws—his morbid sensitivity, inability to bear mistakes and utter humorlessness—made him abetterplayer. After baseball, this "legend without a purpose," whose only genuine language was "the lyricism of his own body," became a stilted spokesman and the central attraction of any memorabilia show lucky enough to secure the services of the Greatest Living Player. Otherwise, he spent his last four decades carrying a torch for the deceased Marilyn Monroe, once famously and briefly his wife, who baffled him completely.

Though sometimes over the top as he reimagines DiMaggio—"[Yankee] Stadium's suffering Christ"—Charyn supplies an intriguing, plausible take on this notoriously opaque hero.

Sam Roberts
Say it ain't so. Another DiMaggio biography. Yet Jerome Charyn applies his considerable skills as a novelist to exploring the gnawing mysteries surrounding a man who "was brutal in his devotion to the game."
—The New York Times
San Francisco Chronicle
This is the first book any DiMaggio fan should read.—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle

— Allen Barra

New York Times
Jerome Charyn applies his considerable skills as a novelist to exploring the gnawing mysteries surrounding a man who 'was brutal in his devotion to the game.—Sam Roberts, New York Times
— Sam Roberts
Lincoln Journal Star
[An] elegantly written and moving book. . . . This slender, nuanced mini-biography is as brilliant a piece of writing as I have ever read, with prose that is poetic, with a deep understanding of and feeling for DiMaggio.—Charles Stephen, Lincoln Journal Star

— Charles Stephen

Seattle Post Intelligencer
Accessing the moments and memories of a bygone era and a time of spectacular achievements, Jerome Charyn has delved into the mystery of Joe DiMaggio and brought him to life.—Leslie Wright, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Blogcritics.org

— Leslie Wright

Globe and Mail
Jerome Charyn, a distinguished novelist, brings a sympathetic imagination to a man whose talents seemed limitless on the field and death-choked off it.—Martin Levin, Globe and Mail

— Martin Levin

Irish Times
This highly readable short book, really an extended essay, puts the life and career of a sporting icon in context.—Kevin Sweeney, Irish Times

— Kevin Sweeney

Robert K. Tanenbaum
“Jerome Charyn has not only written a superb book about a sports legend but, more to the point, he brilliantly informs us that even the icons among us must navigate emotionally and intellectually through the obstacles of expectations, achievements and disappointments that we all encounter. Charyn presents us with more than a sports book. This is a classic drama we can all relate to. You'll enjoy and remember this book.”—Robert K. Tanenbaum, author of Betrayed
Globe and Mail - Martin Levin
"Jerome Charyn, a distinguished novelist, brings a sympathetic imagination to a man whose talents seemed limitless on the field and death-choked off it."—Martin Levin, Globe and Mail
Aram Goudsouzian
“This book has captured DiMaggio’s centrality in American popular culture at midcentury—how he became an American icon, how he wrestled with his celebrity, how he constructed stunted and complex personal relationships, especially with his fellow icon Marilyn Monroe.”—Aram Goudsouzian, author, King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution
Seattle Post Intelligencer - Leslie Wright
"Accessing the moments and memories of a bygone era and a time of spectacular achievements, Jerome Charyn has delved into the mystery of Joe DiMaggio and brought him to life."—Leslie Wright, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Blogcritics.org
Irish Times - Molly McCloskey
“….the book will give pleasure to those who fill with fever when baseball season is upon us.”—Molly McCloskey, Irish Times
Irish Times - Kevin Sweeney
"This highly readable short book, really an extended essay, puts the life and career of a sporting icon in context."—Kevin Sweeney, Irish Times
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-DiMaggio-The-Long-Vigil/173247736020293
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil is on Facebook
http://yalepress.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/author-post-jerome-charyn-on-the-roman
Read a post by Jerome Charyn on the romance of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe on the Yale Press Log
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300123289
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Series: Icons of America Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 978,730
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerome Charyn is the author of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson and The Seventh Babe, a novel about a white third baseman on the Red Sox who also played in the Negro Leagues.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chronology xiii

Prologue: Pinocchio in Pinstripes 1

Part I The Player

1 "Our National Exaggeration" 17

2 The Walloping Wop 25

3 Joltin' Joe and the Ghost of Lou Gehrig 39

4 "C'mon, Joe, Talk to Me" 45

5 The Wounded Warrior 59

Part II The Demon Lover

6 The Princess of Yankee Stadium 73

7 Mr. Marilyn Monroe 85

8 "Bigger Than the Statue of Liberty" 95

9 The Greatest Living Ballplayer 113

10 The Biggest Fan of Them All 119

Finale: An Outfielder's Sky 129

Notes 147

Selected Bibliography 155

Index 161

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Charyn is able to provide the language DiMaggio lacked in describing his life

    Joe DiMaggio as an autistic ballplayer is an interesting concept. Jerome Charyn explores this theory in Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil. As an incredibly gifted athlete, the renowned New York Yankee excelled at hitting a curve ball out of the park or catching a long fly in centerfield. But away from the game, he lived a secluded life surrounded by a few, select people that he barely even talked to. His social skills were so poor that he had trouble reading his own name off a cue card.

    Yet how did such an awkward, insecure man marry Marilyn Monroe? Charyn feels that the relationship was created as the ultimate public relations move. A nude calendar of Marilyn had surfaced and she wanted to rehabilitate her image by staging DiMaggio as her real life leading man. No one was viewed as more stable or reliable than The Yankee Clipper. What she never expected was that he would literally become obsessed with her.

    The book is not a straight biography. Charyn inserts his own opinions and at times writes in the first person. At under 150 pages of text, it is not an overwhelming read. Instead it is a unique look at a man whose iconic status is tempered by very human flaws. His unbreakable concentration on the ballfield left him mentally drained and physically exhausted. This intensely driven quest for perfection was unendurable, yet it was a pattern he followed throughout his life. His sense of discipline was unmatched, but it lacked the heart and emotion that would allow others to connect with him. By keeping himself aloof and distant, Charyn describes DiMaggio as being above the world around him and not part of it.

    A poignant passage revolves around DiMaggio's most legendary achievement - his 56 game hitting streak in 1941. Charyn gives a rich, textured account transporting the reader back to that moment in time. Europe is in the midst of World War II, and the United States is on the brink. Americans are nervous, scared and uncertain. DiMaggio was their national distraction. Would he get a hit? Would he keep the streak alive? His heroics on the field provided Americans with a sense of hope during a dark hour.

    For a man who didn't even talk much to his own teammates, life after baseball became an odyssey of extreme loneliness for DiMaggio. He was like an ex-president - a once powerful man now removed from his lofty position. He was aimless and adrift. He did the autograph circuit until he dropped making millions, yet receiving little personal satisfaction. He died basically alone in a hospital room reportedly saying his last words to a nurse who was attending him. It was a sad and pathetic end for a life so revered.

    While short in length, the book is chock full of details and interesting tidbits. Subjects range from Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle to Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra. Charyn expertly and proficiently covers the major areas of DiMaggio's life in a succinct manner. Told chronologically, it reads more like a page-turning, in-depth magazine profile than a droll, just-the-facts reference book.

    Charyn looks at the big picture. He encourages the reader to remember DiMaggio for his dogged determination and his strict adherence to duty. He provided inspiration to his team on the field playing through injury and illness. While he couldn't obtain the perfection he so strived for, he never gave up on the two things that mattered the most to him - baseball and Marilyn Monroe.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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