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Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 17, 2000
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In a stunning feat of meticulous reportage, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ben Cramer ultimately puts to rest the "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" question with iconoclastic bravura. In Cramer's evaluation, the hero America held onto so desperately for so long was really a creation of a nation's communal imagination. The Joe DiMaggio that America tried so hard to believe in was never really here at all.
There was, of course, a Joe DiMaggio, and he had a splendid career in Yankee pinstripes--once hitting safely in an unimaginable 56 consecutive games--and a troubled marriage with Marilyn Monroe, each augmenting the other in our national mythology. But myths tend to be skin-deep, and Cramer's biography thrives in an internal geography well below the surface. The map he charts is of a cold, small, often nasty, uncaring, resentful, self-centered man, a man of public grace and private misery who broke friendships, shunned family, and chased money with the same focused energies he once harnessed to run down fly balls. It's not a pretty picture.
Scrupulously researched and elegantly written, The Hero's Life is filled with stories and reminiscences, both on and off the field, from others--not surprisingly, DiMaggio offered no cooperation--that both illumine the man and, more fascinatingly, explain our very need for him. Amid all the success and adulation, there was little joy in DiMaggio's life, and few moments--beyond the real heartache he felt over Monroe--of connection with others beyond Joe's personal need for others to serve him. "No one really knew what it meant to have spent a half-century being precisely and distinctly DiMaggio," Cramer writes, "what we required Joe DiMaggio to be. No one knew, as he did, what it cost to live the hero's life. And no one knew, as he did, precisely what it was worth." It seems our nation turned its lonely eyes to a proud, but empty shell; Cramer's superb book helps us understand why we did, and how DiMaggio was able to take all the good will extended him and give so little back. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Listening to Cramer read his biography of Joe DiMaggio feels as though you are sitting in a bar talking baseball with a friend, only to have a grizzled regular overhear your conversation and interject pejoratively, "DiMaggio, eh? I'll tell you about DiMaggio." With a tough, throaty accent and straightforward manner, Cramer sounds as if he's telling the whole tale with his arms crossed over the back of a turned-around chair and a toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth. And for a story about a kid rising from a large Italian family in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf to wealth and fame as a superstar for the New York Yankees, the style fits perfectly. Cramer (What It Takes) balances the Hall of Fame outfielder's well-documented highlights--his 10 World Series titles in 13 major-league seasons, astounding 56-game hitting streak and marriage to Marilyn Monroe--with attributes the public never saw: seedy connections, loose morals and a tight fist. Cramer has ably taken his controversial text and pared it down to provide a strong audio performance that will keep his audience engaged right up until closing time. Simultaneous release with Simon & Schuster hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 16, 2000).
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But the picture painted by Richard Ben Cramer is not pretty to look at. Joltin' Joe was, it appears, a money-grubbing skinflint who expected people to give him everything for free and immediately became suspicious and cut people off as soon as they asked for the smallest thing in return. He cut off his son, who later died of a crank overdose, for not living up to his standards. He lost two wives, including Marilyn Monroe, essentially because he was so controlling and domineering. Although he managed to patch things up with one of his brothers, Dom, he basically died alone under the effective control of a lawyer who was out to get everything he could from the DiMaggio estate.
I didn't doubt this picture as presented by the author, but I felt there must be something missing. Late in his life, he was a very popular social fixture on the New York scene, hanging out with a lot of luminaries such as Woody Allen, Paul Simon and Henry Kissinger, to name a few. I found it hard to reconcile Cramer's picture of DiMaggio as, well, a jerk, with the apparent fact that he was a popular social butterfly late in life.
It seemed to me that he must have had a charming side too, or he wouldn't have been so popular. But there was little suggestion in the book that Joe could be charming. That's why I gave this book four stars instead of five -- that feeling that something must be missing. Still, it's a great book and a great read. Highly recommended for baseball fans.
This book by Richard Ben Cramer answered alot of my questions about Joe Dimaggio, such as why was he so quiet and mysterious and out of the public eye quite a bit. This book may have been criticized because of an unflattering view of Dimaggio, yet it was very honest about the man. Joe Dimaggio had a spectacular baseball career and moved the game forward to a new level that all baseball fans should appreciate, yet he decided to stay away from his admirers and fans, so he could always maintain that mysterious and unapproachable status that few ever encounter in public life.
This book needed to be written because in fact since Dimaggio was so standoffish in life and because he chose to remain in the "shadows" of those who were his fans, that many questions remained about the man. I do not believe his privacy, intimate thoughts and relationships were violated, as pertained by some who have read this. Dimaggio must have known that sooner or later during his lifetime or after his death, that a book that revealed more of his personal side would be written.
This is a very interesting account of his life, his respect but maybe not "love" of the game of baseball, his outstanding playing and work ethic of baseball, his family and personal life and loves, his ultimate love of Marilyn Monroe is revealed with honesty and actual accounts. Cramer didn't have to dig deep into research about Dimaggio, all he had to do is read police reports, talk to friends of Dimaggio who were willing to talk to him, and read other accounts of Dimaggio's life.
I still have great respect and admiration of Joe Dimaggio. I feel sorry for Mr. Dimaggio and the life he chose to live outside the baseball field. His fans truely admired and loved him, yet I believe he truely feared the way he was viewed and thus decided not to reveal himself to much to anyone. I respect that, and I also respect Mr. Cramer's work on Joe Dimaggio.
This book is highly recommended to all Yankee fans and fans of the Great "Joltin" Joe Dimaggio.