Review

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

by Andrew O'Hagan

A small, fluffy Maltese puppy was brought to America by none other than the mother of movie star Natalie Wood, who regularly imported dogs as pets to the stars. Frank Sinatra would select this tough little pooch as a present for Marilyn Monroe. He arrived with an impressive pedigree of his own, but it would pale to the A-list of American icons who would surround him as he accompanied the most famous actress of the 20th century during the last two years of her ill-fated life.

"Through Andrew O’Hagan’s creative mind, we see the world through [Maf's] eyes as he waxes eloquent on everything from politics to religion to literature and art with his fellow canines."

It was 1960. The world was on the threshold between the age of innocence to one of the most tempestuous eras in history. Ahead lay the dawning of the space age, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, the assassinations of a president, a US senator and a civil rights leader. There were no race riots or protest marches. No one had heard of the Beatles, Elvis had just mustered out of the army, and Marilyn Monroe was about to divorce playwright Arthur Miller. She was the most highly publicized and popular movie star in the world.

Mafia Honey, or “Maf” as he was called, would meet John F. Kennedy, who would be elected president in a few months. He would be a regular adornment on Marilyn’s beautiful, Chanel Number 5-scented arm to attend gallery openings, elaborate New York and Hollywood soirees, and nightclub shows starring Sinatra and his pals, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Peter Lawford, the president’s brother-in-law, and the other members of the infamous Rat Pack would play an important role in the life of the erudite, opinionated and philosophical little Maf.

Through Andrew O’Hagan’s creative mind, we see the world through his eyes as he waxes eloquent on everything from politics to religion to literature and art with his fellow canines. He introduces us to some pretty interesting four-legged creatures who occupy his ankle-level world. Did you know that cats speak in poetry --- sometimes free verse, sometimes doggerel and even haiku? New York sewer rats are down with what’s happening at a subterranean level. Existentialist house flies quote Nietzsche, and bees discourse on the life of communal living. But dogs are the savviest of the fur world and knowledgably hold discourse on Trotsky, Dostoyevsky, Freud and Hemingway with authority and conviction. Maf, who was born in humble circumstances in the laundry room of a Scottish cottage, is particularly taken with Trotsky and nearly always sides with the hired help as he sniffs out snacks in the plushly carpeted mansions of the rich and famous. He is not above discreetly expressing his opinion in canine fashion on those same carpets of humans he dismisses as especially crude, most notably his original benefactor, Frank Sinatra.

As Maf accompanies Marilyn to gallery openings, the Copacabana, her Park Avenue shrink and even Mexico, we see a world about to change forever through new eyes. We also see Marilyn as an intellectual, reading THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, mixing in the company of famous authors, artists and producers such as Lillian Hellman, Frank O’Hara, Lee Strasberg, Carson McCullers and others. This witty, charming, at once philosophical and whimsical little volume provides a refreshing new look back at an era a few of us may recall but one pushed aside because of the cataclysmic events about to unfold.

Alas, we are not to learn of Maf’s future after Marilyn takes her last, dramatic bow. Maf sometimes speaks in the past perfect tense, talking about what he tells his canine friends of his exciting first two years in the company of the woman who still retains her platinum plated stardom in our memories. Perhaps life after Marilyn is just too mundane to relate.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 6, 2010

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe
by Andrew O'Hagan

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 054752028X
  • ISBN-13: 9780547520285