Joe DiMaggio The Long Vigil Jerome Charyn

Icons of America
Publication date:
24 Apr 2012
Yale University Press
192 pages: 205 x 133mm
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As the New York Yankees' star centre fielder 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-centred. 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 fell into the web of Morris Engelberg, who turned him 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.

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.

"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

"The book will give pleasure to those who fill with fever when baseball season is upon us."-Molly McCloskey, Irish Times