by Kevin Kling, reviewed by Jon Skaalen
Listening to Minnesota humorist Kevin Kling tell a story is pure pleasure. Whether we hear him on National Public Radio or as a keynote speaker, we smile at a masterfully-told tale that takes a whimsical, capricious or increasingly wise twist on reality. He observes, he reflects, he connects different elements of his experiences growing up, traveling around the world, recovering from his motorcycle accident, conversing with characters of every flavor. He shares his own wry take on “that’s different” (Minnesotan for “what are you thinking?”). He introduces “the moments one feels the tingle that he is about to do something he ought to know better than, perhaps requiring stitches.” He assures us that “everything has its reason even though I’m not sure on which side of calamity the reason sits.”
The Dog Says How collects 29 of Kling’s stories. Their comic timing on the printed page may make you think he’s in the room with you, spontaneously reenacting them. I feel I have heard some of his scenarios (e.g., his wiener dog, his childhood friend who ran like a girl, Dick the Tird, and others) in different configurations before. Perhaps that is just because the stories play with the reader’s memory as they play with his own memory, and each emergence is fresh – the mark of an exceptional storyteller. As Kling says, “Often when I ask memory to serve me, it doesn’t always bring what I ordered. But luckily I’m from Minnesota so I figure it’s probably what I really wanted anyway.”
Perhaps folks with connections to disabilities gravitate naturally toward Kling’s perspectives on “dis” and the realm of stories that flow between people in order to help each other cope. Or maybe it’s his ability to make us “feel at home among fellow fools. In these days where the news has become entertainment and entertainment, news, we get the truth where we can find it. A story, or a place of solace.” Here, in 29 different stories, we feel and are consoled by the truth and our own humanity. What a wonderful gift!
Published by Borealis Books, an imprint division of Minnesota Historical Society Press. More information: www.borealisbooks.org or www.kevinkling.com, $22.95, cloth, ISBN 0-87351-582-X,
224 pp. Phone: 1-800-621-2736
P.S. By the way, Kevin Kling and Nancy Donoval (who has chemical sensitivity disabilities) are presenting a “Theatre Storytelling and Solo Performance” class during the Winter/Spring 2008 semester at the University of Minnesota. http://onestop2.umn.edu/courseinfo/.