If you listen to National Public Radio, you probably already have some acquaintance with Kevin Kling, as he has been a commentator on NPR for a number of years. He is perhaps less widely known as an actor and playwright, although he has made an extensive career for himself in this field in his home state of Minnesota.
The book is a collection of short essays on all manner of topics ranging from the author’s own congenital disability from birth, to the injuries he suffered later in his life due to a motorcycle accident, to his near-death experience, all the way to his recollections of trips, travel, people, places and things that may all be generously lumped under the heading of “the human experience.”
Through it all, Mr. Kling gazes unflinchingly at Reality while simultaneously filtering it through his own gentle yet profound sense of ironic humor. The resulting collection is a series of essays that will make you ponder and grin (and even giggle) as you do so.
An ideal length for reading while traveling, or at the beach, or on the bus or at lunch, this is an ideal summertime read, as it can be picked up and put down (unwillingly) whenever circumstances demand. Here’s a short passage from the book’s final essay which gives the collection its title:
“Several years ago I was in a motorcycle accident that made typing difficult, so I invested in voice-activated software for my computer. The voiceware has to get to know my vocal patterns and inflections so there is a series of sentences I read into the computer and it learns my vocal nuances. I remember when the movie Fargo came out people kept calling my local radio station saying, “Hey, what’s the deal? We don’t sound like that.”
“So I’m reading away when my dog and cat get in a fight. Bark, bark. Meow, meow, meow. Bark, bark. I look at the computer and it has written: “How how why why why how how.” I think that explains a lot.
I think when it comes to the underworld most people are either dogs or cats. It’s either “How?” or “Why?” For me the underworld is like a good haircut in that it probably falls somewhere between something I have and something I wanted. But you don’t know. You do know whenever you take a trip there’s the trip you plan and the trip you take. You get out your maps, pack just right…but at some point you just have to give in to the ride, give in to the journey. Face it, the only place that looks like its map…is Nebraska.”
To sum up, “The Dog Says How” is a wonderful selection for anyone who enjoys a gentle and unassuming experience that is light-hearted enough to be a delightful gift, while at the same time not so vapid or vaccuous that it has no further redeeming value.