This year marks the 70th anniversary of one of the sports records considered to be unbreakable: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Jerome Charyn's JOE DIMAGGIO: THE LONG VIGIL is an examination of what happens to an athlete when the cheering stops.
It's a brief, exceedingly sad tale; for all of DiMaggio's accomplishments and adoration, Charyn depicts him as a man who was never comfortable in his own skin. At once wanting the accolades while at the same time wishing to be left alone, Garbo-like, he became a hero to the Italian community and to America at large in a precarious time in history, when the nation needed respite from the larger issues of the impending World War just a few months away.
A major theme of THE LONG VIGIL is DiMaggio's courtship of and marriage to Marilyn Monroe, another glamorous icon. They were America's royalty and the object of early-form paparazzi. The famous story has DiMaggio furious at the filming of The Seven Year Itch, when Monroe famously stood above a subway grating as the breeze from a passing train lifted her skirt for all to ogle. Despite their mutual love, need and attraction, his jealous rages eventually ended their marriage, throwing him into further isolation and despair.
Charyn, a well-acclaimed novelist, wrote THE SEVENTH BABE in 1979 and has included baseball in several of his other books. As such, his newest venture has a lyrical quality that sets it apart from most (especially sports) biographies.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan (http://RonKaplansBaseballBookshelf.com) on March 8, 2011