How Shall I Tell the Dog?, by Miles Kington

How Shall I Tell the Dog? by Miles Kington (Profile Books, 2008)

What would one expect of a collection of essays from a man who is dying of pancreatic cancer? Probably not these brief, crisp, charming and very funny letters to his publisher. While trying to bear in mind that Kington has died from cancer, I could not help laughing aloud on almost every page, and kept wanting to read some of the ingenious bits to others.

The bathos in this book lies in Kington’s contrasting the taboo subject of cancer and the seriousness of death, with incongruous, keenly observed references. It is not black humour, since Kington did not see himself as a victim, nor saw his life as futile. He never becomes maudlin or sentimental, rather observing his progress towards his own demise with fascination, wit and stoicism.In the letters he contemplates of what a book for cancer sufferers, possibly with the title “100 things to do before you die”, would consist (a hundred things only because someone with terminal cancer hasn’t got much time.) It is like a sampling of the humour from the pages of Punch magazine, for which he wrote. He brings up a smorgasbord of weirdly fascinating subjects, from funeral videos, to the language of cancer, teach-yourself-yodelling and a board game about cancer he called “Necropoly”. And of course, he contemplates how to tell his dog that he is dying, so that his last words are not: “Oh, for God’s sake, not now Berry!”

Only after I read it did I look at his picture on the dust cover, where he definitely did not look 67, and that of Berry, who outlived him, and felt sad.


The website dedicated to Kington’s life and writing, with extracts from the book, is here. [Rtrvd. 2016-03-05]. Miles Beresford Kington [rtrvd. 2016-03-05] (13 May 1941 – 30 January 2008) was a British journalist, musician (a double bass player for Instant Sunshine and other groups) and broadcaster. He is also credited with the invention of Franglais, a fictional language, made up of French and English.

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