Saturday, May 29, 2010


TITLE: The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe AUTHOR: Andrew O’Hagan PUBLISHER: Faber and Faber

REVIEWER: Carmel Bird

This novel declares itself in its title. It is written by Marilyn’s Maltese. The world is probably divided into two kinds of people, those who like books by dogs and those who don’t. I do. I loved the idea of this book when I first heard of it, and I was utterly captivated by the reading, thrilled by the wit, energy and rhythm of the writing. The reflections of Maf are superb insights into America in the early sixties, as well as into big subjects such as literature, art, psychology, history and politics. This is philosophy at its most engaging. There is an ancient tradition in literature where animals speak to and for humans. Maf identifies a book by Cervantes ‘The Conversation of the Dogs’ as marking the birth of the genre in the development of the modern novel, and goes on to cite examples by Woolf, Chekov, Orwell and many more. Kafka he quotes: ‘All knowledge – the totality of all questions and answers – is contained in the dog.’ The view Maf gives of Marilyn is unlike any other, and is ultimately a most lucid and moving one. He can read her mind, and there is a point at which she can read his. He is so wise and wistful, she so fragile and doomed. On the one hand this book is a revelation about all the dogs in literature and art, and on the other it is a novel of profound and highly entertaining insight into the human heart.

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