She has a strange relationship with DiMaggio—strange because it cannot possibly be as mundane as she will later present it—and it is virtually undocumented, although choking in factoids. DiMaggio never gives much to an interview, and her version of him, when married to Arthur Miller, is spiteful, even reminiscent of the way she has already dismissed Jim Dougherty, her first husband. Yet DiMaggio will always be there when she needs him, and is probably her closest friend in the months before she dies. Certainly he is the first of the bereaved at her funeral. The enigma that remains is that of their sex life. Was it a marriage whose good humor depended on the speed with which they could make love one more time, and lie around in the intervals suffering every boredom of two people who had no cheerful insight into the workings of the other’s mind; or is it a failure of tenderness (and soon a war of egos monumentally spoiled) between an Italian man and an Irish girl (by way of Hogan) who had been built to mate with one another, and would therefore have been able to thrive in any working-class world where marriage was designed for cohabitation rather than companionship.
These speculations belong to gossip unless we recognize that if it has not been sexual attraction, or some species of natural suitability, that brings them together, then her motivation is more than a little suspicious, and even suggests she has grown ruthless in the years since Ana Lower’s death. While accounts of their first date excite a factoidal rhetoric with only the smallest resonance of reality—“There’s a blue polka dot exactly in the middle of your tie knot. Did it take you long to fix it like that?” she is supposed to say after a silent dinner, while he is supposed to blush in silence and shake his head—still the tempo of their subsequent meetings takes on acceleration in proportion to her recognition of his fame.
She knows nothing about ballplayers when she meets him—she might as well be the belle of Puerto Rico being introduced to Stein Eriksen—she is merely relieved, she confesses, that he did not have “slick black hair and wear flashy clothes.” Instead he was “conservative, like a bank vice-president or something.” (To someone as protean as herself, dignity would be indispensable in a man, a node of reference by which to measure her own spectrum of movie star manners, good and bad.) It is only over the next few weeks that she comes to learn he has been the greatest baseball player of his time, the largest legend in New York since Babe Ruth. With her capacity to measure status—she has passed already in her life from microcosmos of the social world into macrocosmos, there is not too much a headwaiter need do before she can detect by the light in his eye that he is feeling the unique and luminous spinelessness of a peasant before a king. She…
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Copyright © 1973 by Norman Mailer.