Uphill, Offbeat, and … Perfect: Kevin Kling’s The Dog Says How

January 7th, 2014 by Frank Randall · No Comments · Uncategorized

Storyteller Kevin Kling was born with a natural gift for coaxing humor out of tragedy – and allowing the quirks of his family, his friends, and even his dog, to reveal truths that make it feel good to laugh through the pain. In THE DOG SAYS HOW, Kling offers a personal and enduring account of his brush with death and unlikely recovery from a particularly messy motorcycle accident. At various points along his precarious, hilarious journey to wellness, Kling manages to incorporate animated episodes from his youth (go-cart bravado leading straight to the emergency room, his gallant exploits as an unlikely hero on the baseball diamond, animated memories of his “evil-genius” brother, and his admirably distracted mom and dad), as well as a cast of colorful characters – including several larger than life dogs – from his more recent past.

While Kling was born with a congenital birth defect affecting his left arm, he still manages a positive spin after the motorcycle accident paralyzed his right. Overcoming his own frustrations as a youth while disarming the misperceptions by others of his limited abilities offered its own unique reward: A surefire combination of uphill perspective and can-do attitude. Just what the doctor ordered for a budding underdog narrator. His real-life misadventures – whether in remedial taxidermy class, or hatching quixotic plans with local barflies – provide material that would make an aspiring comedian twist with joy. Or a hungry novelist get down to serious business at the typewriter. This collection of connected stories serves as an tender reminder that no matter how bumpy the ride, what may have seemed like pain along the way was really an opportunity to celebrate the grab bag of human conditions we tend to call life.

Any fan of Kling’s unique storytelling career, one that has veered from the circus to the stage, to public radio and beyond, will realize that much of THE DOG SAYS HOW was born in front of a live audience. There is no higher bond between author and audience than when connected via the spoken word. The greatest aspect of this audio performance is that, while the material makes up a fine book that deserved to be printed, bound, and read with delight, Kling’s words were born to be delivered by the his own voice. He lovingly wraps his upper-Midwestern accent around each situation and setting with nuances that transport the listener to eerily familiar places, embarrassingly common situations, and the company of some truly remarkable characters. At every turn, his dynamic narration inspires an appreciation for unexpected phraseology from unlikely sources. Like his dad’s “It ain’t rocket surgery, fer cryin’ outside.”

Kling’s world is populated with people who revel in being themselves, for better or worse. The effect is ultimately touching and the laughs are genuine – as are the many revelations that people are as strange, funny, and ridiculous as the things they say. No matter how battered by unforeseen circumstances, or generally off balance from birth, we are all, in a word (Kling’s own choice on occasion): “Perfect.”


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