In November 1960, Frank Sinatra gave Marilyn Monroe a dog. His name was Mafia Honey, or Maf for short. He had an instinct for celebrity. For politics. For psychoanalysis. For literature. For interior decoration. For Liver Treat with a side order of National Biscuits.
Born in the household of Vanessa Bell, brought to the United States by Natalie Woods mother, given as a Christmas present to Marilyn the winter after she separated from Arthur Miller, Maf offers a keen insight into the world of Hollywoods greatest star. Not to mention a hilarious peek into the brain of an opinionated, well-read, politically scrappy, complex canine hero.
Maf was with Marilyn for the last two years of her life, first in New York, where she mixed with everyone who was anyonethe art dealer Leo Castelli, Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio crowd, Upper West Side émigrésthen back to Los Angeles. She took him to meet President Kennedy and to Hollywood restaurants, department stores, and interviews. To Mexico, for her divorce. With style, brilliance, and panache, Andrew OHagan has drawn an altogether original portrait of the woman behind the icon, and the dog behind the woman.
Ultimately, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe is an entertaining read, not least for its satisfying glimpses behind the curtain of Hollywood, but it will not be to everyone's taste. This is not a cute story told from a trusty dog's perspective, but a melancholy social commentary about a nation on the cusp of change. It is funny, sad, and earthy, and Maf the Dog, with his remarkable turns of phrase and impassioned beliefs, is a memorable storyteller. (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
O'Hagan's witty novel is packed with allusions, and though Maf gives color and nuance to some historical A-listers, Marilyn, remains unfortunately elusive. This familiar slice of Americana gets a much-needed shaking up from an erudite pooch.
Not O’Hagan’s best, but it’s an enjoyable, thoughtful diversion nonetheless.
Starred Review. Monroe fans should devour in one sitting this haunting cross between a summer read and a fall smolderer. Everyone else should read it, too, for its urgent lessons on empathy. Forever and always recommended.
Starred Review. An unusual, quirky and fun read.
The Scotsman (UK)
If I said this novel was profoundly superficial, I would not want that to be a criticism. It has the strenuous delicacy of a pond-skater standing on water, or a glass of champagne topped up to the rim. ... O'Hagan might, on the strength of this, be the person to break the Booker's fear of funny.
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
[T]he novel is a good ride until then, and a touching tribute to a woman whose body was used and abused, who spent much of her short life in what Arthur Miller referred to as “an aura of contempt”, but whose spirit has lastingly prevailed.
The Sunday Times (UK)
"[U]nusual for O’Hagan, Maf the Dog’s narrator (Monroe’s dog itself) adopts a fondly sentimental and rather sanitized stance towards its troubled owner and her self-indulged circle. In O’Hagan’s second novel, Personality, the singing star’s crazy mother was a cracked and fiery presence. Yet he delved deeper into Monroe’s gruesome upbringing and sordid early years in his ten-page essay than he does in the novel.
The Independent (UK)
Maf is privy to Monroe's unguarded moments, and O'Hagan gives an intimate and affectionate account of her. It doesn't do anything so crass as to join in with speculation over her death or love life, but the unusual point of view allows us to see one of the 20th century's most mythologised icons afresh.
The Guardian (UK)
Andrew O'Hagan has taken on the voice of a dog to write a subtle, funny and moving study of America on the eve of one of its periods of greatest crisis. The lonely and sordid death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 ushered in, did we but know it, not the age of Aquarius but of Thanatos, and the fact that it was a daughter of Eros who had died makes the moment all the more tragic. Maf the Dog, like Lolita, like The Great Gatsby, is a threnody for lost innocence.
The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his friend Marilyn Monroe creates a believable character in Maf, a character based on Marilyn Monroe's dog. Fiction about or including dogs has a popular and long history. Wikipedia offers an expansive page listing the dogs in literature including Odysseus's faithful companion Argos, and Crab "the sourest natured dog that lives" from Shakespeare's Two Gentleman of Verona. Clearly, fictional dogs are abundant, from children's literature to adult novels; yet Maf the Dog is rare in being one of the few books to depict a real-life dog in fiction. Here are two others:
In Greyfriar's Bobby (1912), Eleanor Atkinson tells the story of Bobby, a devoted Skye Terrier who won the attention of Queen Victoria. Told in the third person, the story tells of the unfortunate wanderings of Bobby and his friend Old Jock, a sickly shepherd, who is...
Three broken souls, and one dog: Pax. All three of them need healing. All three of them are lost. And in Susan Wilson's A Man of His Own, Pax, with his unconditional love and unwavering loyalty, may be the only one who can guide them home.
A moving depiction of the transformative power of first love, Hamann's first novel follows Eveline Auerbach from her high school years in East Hampton, New York, in the 1970s through her early adulthood in the moneyed, high-pressured Manhattan of the 1980s.
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