Celebrities’ allure burns bright long after death whether by suicide or natural causes. Rumored connections to the mysterious underworld, with people of great power and wealth last decades. Andrew O’Hagan’s novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, is a wonderful romp through the eccentricities of two eternal celebrities – Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.
Maf, the Dog, is the narrator par excellence in this snappy but not snippy story. It is a clear case of the dog hilariously wagging the tale [sic]. Maf accompanies Ms. Monroe everywhere adding to her finery like a fluffy accessory. His persnickety side shines through when first viewing Sinatra’s home Maf opines, “The real difference between humans is that some care about authenticity and some don’t care at all.”
The reader wonders, is Maf’s voice the anthropomorphic side of the author? And is it Maf or O’Hagan quoting Thomas Mann, “A pervasive feeling of sympathy and good cheer invariably comes over me when I am in his (his German Pointer) company and looking at things from the dog’s angle.” Dog lovers will enjoy this novel, particularly those who treat their furry friends as children, talking to them as if they understand and respond.
A cast of internationally acclaimed stars, socialites, and locations spin through the pages bringing to life a bygone era. A time when movie stars dressed and made-up just to stroll down the street or hang out in the Copacabana. Name-dropping is utterly boring in print or spoken, but in this adorable story it cultivates a sense of time, place, gravitas and frivolity.
Natalie Wood’s Russian accented mother raises Maltese puppies, connect the star-studded dots to Frank Sinatra who selects a pup as a gift for Marilyn Monroe. She promptly dubs this wickedly funny and erudite pup, Maf, as in Mafia. Rumors of Sinatra’s coziness with the Mafia run neck-in-neck with the clandestine linking of Monroe to President Kennedy, just the tip of the iceberg in celebrity gossip as voiced by Maf.
Hollywood names connected to New York “royalty,” include Peter Lawford who was married and divorced from Patricia Kennedy. Sinatra’s Rat Pack (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop) and their paramours, gallivanting via private jet or limo, from Sutton Place to Nimes Road in Bel Air add intrigue and glamour to O’Hagan’s tale, and stamps in Maf’s well-worn passport.
Award-winning writer, Andrew O’Hagan was born in Scotland, and has published essays, reviews, and articles in the London Review of Books, Granta, The New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker. Previous novels include Our Fathers (winner of the Winifred Holtby Prize for Fiction) and Personality (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. In 2003, O’Hagan was presented with the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.