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

Houghton Harcourt. Dec. 2010. c.288p. ISBN 9780151013722. $24. F
OrangeReviewStarMany an esteemed novelist has tried and failed to capture the charisma of Marilyn Monroe. Drawing on actual events, O'Hagan (Be Near Me) avoids the pitfalls of his predecessors by treating the actress like a human being. This miracle comes courtesy of, yes, a canine narrator; but not just any canine—Maf, short for Mafia Honey, a Trotksy-loving, seen-it-all-but-still-dewy-eyed Maltese gifted to Monroe by the one and only Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra. If this sounds wondrous, it's because it is. With the wit and whimsy of a great European novelist, Maf treats readers to a star-studded biography of humanity and dogs, their many beautiful bonds, and the tragic distance that remains between them. Indeed, no one was likely closer to Monroe the last two years of her life than her dog, and yet Maf could not save her. Still, this is not a sad story—O'Hagan's incredible gift for dialog will give you the giggles and goose bumps. Monroe, Sinatra, Carson McCullers, Lionel Trilling, and Lillian Hellman will materialize at your bedside to entertain and outrage you with their outsizedness.
VERDICT 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. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10; also previewed in "BEA Beyond the Buzz," LJ 7/10.]
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