“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.”
It’s always interesting when I review a book that is a bit out of my comfort zone or which appeals to me in a different way than it might its “intended” audience. Let me preface by saying this…I really enjoy baseball. I love watching and following college baseball but I really don’t know much about the true baseball greats other than the fact that they are considered “great”. Enter Joe DiMaggio. I know he is considered one of the greatest baseball legends of all time. I also know that he was a husband of Marilyn Monroe. Of course I gravitate towards this fact…I am a twenty something year old girl who loves old Hollywood glamour and an ardent Marilyn admirer. That being said this book held a bit of a different appeal for me and yet still managed to both educate and entertain.
Joe DiMaggio was a very private man. A man who kept to himself. However there was one individual in his life for which he would do anything: Marilyn Monroe. Throughout the fights, the battling of egos as two of the most beloved figures of all time- this is a man who deeply loved a woman with all his heart and took care of her until the moment when he no longer could. And yet he still loved her even beyond the grave.
This memoir really taught me a lot about Joe DiMaggio as a ball player and his amazing talent but more so than that it revealed who he was as an individual something perhaps he even himself could not do because of his very private nature. It was honest and candid. There was no glossing over the “good, the bad or the dirty”. We learn of DiMaggio’s ego, his jealousy and temper and even alleged domestic abuse. However we also learn of a man who tried to stand by the woman he loved no matter what.
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn is a engrossing tale of a man larger than life and a romance that few knew the extent of. Fans of DiMaggio and Marilyn alike will find its pages informative and filled with facts probably not known by any but the most well researched fans and experts. The book is a great contribution to an era that is often glamorized but while it celebrates that world of glitz and fame, it also remains truthful and reflective- something only the best memoirs do.
You can find more information on this book and its author Jerome Charyn on Twitter. A special thanks to Tribute Books for the chance to review Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil. You can enter to win your own copy from them and read their review here. Also make sure to check out the additional stops of the Blog Tour for this book.