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The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe Hardcover – December 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
O'Hagan (Be Near Me) conjures canine narrator Maf, short for "Mafia Honey," to introduce readers to a world where dogs' playful manners belie their capacity for philosophy--Maf is a Trotsky fan--cats speak in poetic form, and animals provide a gateway into their owners' thoughts and dreams. A circuitous path leads Maf into the arms of Frank Sinatra just as he's looking for a gift for Marilyn Monroe. With his new owner, the lucky pup has a period of perfect companionship in New York City, attending Sammy Davis Jr. shows, sitting in on analyst appointments, witnessing Sinatra tantrums, and attending literati gatherings where those whose artistic sensibilities run counter to his risk being bitten. Between Maf's ruminations on dog and human nature, his favorite famous dogs, and the best parks in the world, he bemoans Marilyn's decline. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
“Good book. Good dog,” (St. Petersburg Times) was the general consensus from critics, who had begun reading Maf the Dog with extreme skepticism. Who could blame them? That said, reviewers in the United Kingdom were able to suspend their belief far more easily than those in the United States. But in the end, most were won over, or at least entertained, by this canine memoir. While critics described it as witty, elegant, and original, they also acknowledged that awareness of both Hollywood, high literary culture, and the 1960s is helpful when navigating Maf’s thoughts. One exception to the solid reviews came from the Washington Post critic, who begrudged every minute spent with that “pedantic pooch.” Be forewarned: even those who enjoyed the book admitted it wasn’t for everyone.
Top customer reviews
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Maf's favorite philosopher is Leon Trotsky. I would have expected Jeremy Bentham, the first writer to acknowledge that animals have rights, but Bentham barely gets two lines. Trotsky gets a whole chapter as ,af visits his home.
Don't expect this to read like a novel. The plot is a loosely organized quest. The story is really a series of essays on life.
Film fans need to be warned that Monroe's sole purpose in this novel is to carry Maf from one place to the next and to introduce him to people who are often much more interesting than she is like the couple who take Maf to view UFO's or Mrs. Murray who takes Maf to Trotsky's home in Mexico. Many characters are described as interior decorators, though that is not their professions. Maf is interested in the interior design of the soul and the intellect. The author uses this as a metaphor.
Marilyn meets and discusses politics with JFK, but these meeting is brief. Their legendary affair never happened. They met only two times, spent perhaps an hour together and were surrounded by well-wishers including secret service agents for the entire time. The author includes these meeting probably just because it was expected. I did like Marilyn and JFK discussing Martin Luther King Jr. Less interesting was Carson McCullers and Marilyn discussing Truman Capote.
The author did do his research and this is an interesting way to write essays and fiction at the same time. I know this book won't work for all readers, but I enjoyed the philosophy class. The author using Maf as a narrator also comments on famous dogs in history, literature and film. Maf makes a great teacher. I hope to see him in other novels or discussions or essays. Whatever the author thinks will work best.
Why is that, I wondered. O'Hagan must have tried. I guess those pages just didn't work, so he gave up on them. A pity. The omission was too glaring for me to overlook, and at that point in my reading I began to get grumpy.
Grumpy conclusion: Marilyn Monroe herself is sketched too thinly. O'Hagan presents an opaque portrait of a troubled woman with beautiful skin who is seldom without a glass of champagne in her hand. And the dog talks too much.