Biographies of Joe DiMaggio generally attempt to denigrate DiMaggio personally and to bring him down a few notches in the minds of readers and fans. In Jerome Charyn’s treatment, we find instead the crafting of an almost irreproachable legend – imperfections included. Charyn describes DiMaggio as our aloof, suffering Christ, the magnificent hermit and the “phantom we seldom saw.” America looked upon DiMaggio in “almost religious awe” and in him we find the “first saint of baseball” who mesmerized us with the “lyricism of his own body.” DiMaggio’s body is poetry in motion but we get nothing from him off-field – instead it is there where he is “defined by his isolation.”
In 1941, the US was on the brink of WWII and Joe DiMaggio was in the midst of his record breaking 56 game hitting streak. It was during that time that he became our national distraction and an iconic living legend – later to be given the title of “Greatest Living Player.” Then, when he retired in 1951, his obsession turned from baseball to Marilyn Monroe. Their tumultuous marriage lasted only 9 months, but their relationship went back and forth until Marilyn died in 1962, then Joe continued to carry “the long vigil” until his own death in 1999. Through Charyn’s rendering of this love-story, readers are drawn to wonder whether Joe and Marilyn could have saved each other if only they could have made it work in 1962.
The book is a quick read at 162 pages so does not contain a lot of the detail that longer biographies do, but this story is a little treasure due to Charyn’s artistic talent as a writer and his obvious love of Joe DiMaggio. I highly recommend it and I loved it!