Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn

Just as he did with his book on Emily Dickinson, Jerome Charyn draws the reader in with an engaging story of another American great in Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil.

If this were merely a book about baseball, I might not have read it. I enjoy baseball, but the times in which DiMaggio became a legend were before me. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and DiMaggio were all just names I heard from time to time as I sat watching the New York Yankees and my Red Sox during the 70's and 80's. They weren't real to me like Jim Rice, whose autographed picture hung in my room. I didn't have the memories of those greats clear in my mind, like I still recall the games where pitchers opted to walk Reggie Jackson than risk his bat connecting with the ball.

In Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, Charyn provides the reader with a candid, yet sympathetic, view of one of baseball's greats. It is the focus on the man on the field and outside of the ballpark that made this such a spectacular read for me.

In his touching Preface, Charyn remembers growing up in the Bronx, scraping by, but always finding a way to make enough to get through the turnstiles at Yankee Stadium; a need that increased as DiMaggio shot to fame.

DiMaggio is portrayed as a complex, intense man, unable to feel comfortable in his own skin unless he was in center field. Off the field he was shy and barely spoke. His list of famous friends seems endless, yet we are left wondering how well they really knew him. Perhaps the only one who truly knew the real Joe was Marilyn Monroe. Their short-lived marriage captivated the world then, and as Charyn's book exemplifies, their tumultuous, tragic love story still nags at us. Could he have saved her? Could she have saved him?

Joe DiMaggio lived in a world of baseball that no longer exists, as Charyn so poignantly indicates.  As the official Joe DiMaggio website says at the end of his life story, "He is the symbol of another era, of another breed of athlete and star."

I highly recommend Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn. Whether you love baseball legends or are looking for a well-written book that moves along at a perfect pace, you'll find it in the pages of Charyn's latest release.

Title:  Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil
Author:  Jerome Charyn
Publisher:  Yale University Press
ISBN-10: 9780300123289
ISBN-13: 978-0300123289
SRP:  $24.00 (hardcover)

Also available in a Kindle edition and at Barnes and Noble.

Blog Tour web site:

Jerome Charyn's web site:

Jerome Charyn's Facebook:!/jerome.charyn

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Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil Facebook:!/pages/Joe-DiMaggio-The-Long-Vigil/173247736020293

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Yale University Press web site:

Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong."

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.


The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson said...

What a wonderful smart review! Maybe I feel so strongly because it reminds me so much of my own reaction to "Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil." I love the Joe and Marilyn story, too, but I am not one to pick up a purely sports-themed book. This one had the feel of a novel. Thanks so much for your "take" - we've posted it on our "sister" page:

Cheryl said...

Glad you enjoyed the review. Thanks for posting it on your FB page.

Tribute Books said...

Cheryl - you hit on so many great points.

This is such a great read because it does not simply dwell on sports dates, statistics, etc. It's a sports story in so much as that is what Joe did for a living.

You're right - for those who were not around to see Joe play during his time with the Yankees - Jerome brings him to life in a way that you can relate to him in terms of rooting for your current favorite players. What may have taken place in black & white, Jerome brings into color.

Spot on review! :)