The New York Times
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigilby Jerome Charyn
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.
The New York Times
"This is the first book any DiMaggio fan should read."—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle
"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
"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
“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
“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
“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
"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.
"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
“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
"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
"[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
“….the book will give pleasure to those who fill with fever when baseball season is upon us.”—Molly McCloskey, 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
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil is on Facebook
Read a post by Jerome Charyn on the romance of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe on the Yale Press Log
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.
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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