Although Mr John asserts of Marilyn Monroe, in his 1973 song 'Candle In The Wind', that he never knew her at all, he was nonetheless captivated both by her biography and the magic of her inimitable screen persona.
Andrew O'Hagan has been bitten by the same bug but has chosen to tell his story through the eyes of a small dog given to Ms Monroe as a Christmas gift by Frank Sinatra. It is a charming and witty tale.
'Maf' is a clever pup. A thoroughly literary hound. His familiarity with the philosophical musings of Descartes; the conceits of the Lee Strasberg school of "method" acting and the finer details of the world of Sigmund Freud and his inner-circle are highly impressive given his diminuative stature and relative youth. (He is also an avid Trotskyist to boot!)
His sensitivity to Ms Monroe's loneliness and deep desire for her craft to be taken seriously is depicted with considerable pathos (and not a little venom for the shallow world of her celebrity contemporaries!)
I particularly enjoyed the barbed exchanges with her highly competetive psychoanalyst Dr Kris and the very funny dialogue with New York gallery owner Leo Castelli. Standing in front of the Roy Lichtenstein painting 'Washing Machine, 1961' Castelli intones : "They're the acme of industrial. Cartoons are the only politics we recognise. They are anti-contemplative, anti-nuance, anti-getting-away-from-the-tyranny- of-the-triangle. They are anti-movement-and-light, anti-mystery, anti-paint-quality, anti-Zen, and anti all those brilliant ideas that everybody understands and depends on so thoroughly." To which Ms Monroe responds : "That's a helluva lot of anti to put into one washing machine". I laughed out loud!
Played out against the backdrop of cold-war America, 'The Life and Opinions Of Maf The Dog and Of His Friend Marylin Monroe' conjures a time and a world back into being with a heady mixture of warmth, humour and not a little quiet canine cunning.
Some have found the book a bit of a dogs dinner. I loved it!