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How Shall I Tell the Dog?: And Other Final…

How Shall I Tell the Dog?: And Other Final Musings (2009)

by Miles Kington

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was scheduled to review "How Shall I Tell the Dog" early last year. My copy went missing so I am reviewing this book from the Kindle edition.
While it is true that there is nothing funny about having cancer and it is also true that pancreatic cancer is, indeed, "a nasty one" as Kington's oncologist points out, it is also, also true that Kington was a humorist. He did what many humorists do and gave us a funny, touching and real account of his life - knowing that he would die and knowing that his death would be soon, however unimaginable that image was.
If ever there was a time and place for black humor, this is it and Kington came through admirably. Kington skewers the "self-help" genre perfectly. He is not unkind -merely brilliantly on target.
I wish he'd got to read Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, "Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America". I wish he'd gotten to read a lot more things and had years to read them.
I recommend this book for many reasons. Obviously, its humor but also its serious look at how we look at (or don't) those who are very ill, how we talk with them - things we are afraid to say. He also does a take on our less deadly (sorry) cultural scene and
it is worth the price of the book - or Kindle edition - 9.99.
Now that I have finished my review I am going off to Yodel in memory of Miles Kington. ( )
  MJC1946 | Sep 16, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Seeing that death can be humorous, Kington tries his best to let us see it as well. I did not love the book, but I appreciate what the author was trying to do.
  dirtygreek | Feb 2, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have been reluctant to post what I really thought of this book for many months. I received it through the Early Reviewer's program and was looking forward to a more heart warming memoir. I was raised to not say anything if I couldn't say anything nice and it is especially difficult to make uncomplimentray comments about this book since it is a memoir and the author is deceased. Let me add that I have not read any other books by this author. If I had I may have had a better appreciation for his sense of humour.

Obviously I did not like the book. I found the humour to be inappropriate as I find nothing funny about cancer or death. In my opinion the author is not so much describing the experience of dying of cancer as he seems to be cashing in on the C word in a last ditch effore tto provide income for his family while writing on a topic that is naturally dominating his thoughts.

I'm not sure whether I would recommend this book or to whom. I notice that many of the other reviewers found the book humourous and gave it a high rating. Perhaps I will read another of his books and reread this one to see if my opinion changes. ( )
  mamabear54 | Jan 2, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I must admit that I began reading this book with a bit of reluctance. Knowing little to nothing of the author, I anticipated it to be a tear-jerker, but was I wrong! As Michael Palin of Monty Python said, "What a wonderful legacy this is. A book to make the Grim Reaper laugh and even, one hopes, encourage Him to give up the job altogether." It is by turns bittersweet, thoughtful, deeply moving, and most of all, hilarious. Not at all what you'd expect on such a subject, but after reading about the life and works of Kington, it seems just what he would write! I highly recommend it to anyone willing to give it a try. ( )
  kgbradham | Nov 12, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Miles Kington's book How Shall I Tell the Dog is a writer's way of telling the world that yes, I know I am dying but I don't know any other thing to do but to write about it.

That's what writers do. We write about what happens.

Kington is an English humorist, or perhaps that should be 'humourist.' At 66, he learned he had pancreatic cancer, or as one of his doctors explained, "This is one of the nasty ones." With a low-to-no chance of delaying the effects, Kington sets out to write one final thing before he dies, if only he can figure out what to write.

As a humorist, his attention span is short, his wife notes in the afterword, and by telling the story in bits of imagined letters to Kington's literary agent Giles Coleridge, he attempts to sum his life's unanswered questions with a shot of whisky (I suppose that should be whiskey) and a joke. While not all of the jokes are funny, some are painfully sad, as in changing Patricia Schultz' 1,000 Places to See Before You Die to 100 Things to Do Before I Die. Kington notes to his agent, this may be blackmail, but he hopes readers see his point.

What is his point? He had always planned to outlive his springer spaniel, Berry. Now he knows he won't. (As for his cat, well, she is old....)

How Shall I Tell the Dog (and other final musings) is less memoir and more musing. The book is incomplete. Unfinished. And exactly like its author, Miles Kington, a humorist, literary editor for Punch, and a jazz reviewer for the London Times. He died of pancreatic cancer on January 30, 2008. He will be remembered for many things, one of them being his social wit in the series Let's Parler Frangelais!

3 stars ( )
  terrybanker | Nov 11, 2009 |
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Dear Gill, You asked me the other day if I had any ideas for books that I wanted to write, so I am writing back to you now to remind you that that was the first question you ever asked me when we first met nearly thirty years ago.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 155704841X, Hardcover)

In this hilarious and moving book, popular English humorist Miles Kington faces cancer and death with his sparkling trademark wit, musing on everything from board games and yodeling to the prospect of being outlived by his dog.

When some people are told they have only a few months to live, they might travel around the world or write their memoirs or put their affairs in order. When it happened at the age of 66 to Miles Kington-one of England's best-loved humorists-he did what he did best, offering sharp, wry, laugh-out-loud observations and ideas about his situation. Following his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Kington proposes crazier and crazier ideas for his next book (what he calls "cashing in on cancer") in a series of letters to his literary agent, Gill.

And what sort of things capture Kington's attention in his waning months? The sudden grimness of those 1,000 Places to See Before You Die books, for example. (What about 100 Things to Do Before You Die, Without Leaving Home?, he suggests. Instead of bungee jumping and whitewater rafting, learn to whistle with two fingers in your mouth, yodel, or steam open envelopes.) The irony that his dog, Berry, will probably outlive him, or the semi-outrageous idea of creating a funeral video:

The answer is quite simple.

Make a video in advance of my farewell speech, to be shown on a monitor, from the pulpit, or on a screen behind the stage, or wherever the best place would be.

I have already visualised the opening shot.

It is of me, smiling ruefully, and saying to camera: "Hello. I'm sorry I couldn't be here in person with you today."

Mischievous and utterly original, Miles Kington's words in the face of death are memorable and surprisingly uplifting.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:33 -0400)

Miles Kingston, the much-loved humorist, musician and broadcaster, died of cancer in January 2008. This series of letters from him to his literary agent shows this inventive and very English writer at the height of his craft.

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