Monday, September 21, 2009

How Shall I Tell the Dog? and Other Final Musings by Miles Kington

Dear Gill,

I just finished reading How Shall I Tell the Dog? and Other Final Musings by the late Miles Kington, which is written as a series of letters to you. Thank you for letting us read them. I know you might reply that they were meant for publication from the beginning, so your role was no big deal. Still, you lent your ear and encouraged Miles during the Facing the Mountain, Crossing the Plateau, and The Descent phases of his illness. I am grateful.

How Shall I Tell the Dog? has to be the happiest book about cancer that I have ever read. From reading this collection of letters, all about writing a "final days" book, you would never know that he struggled. I imagine that other people with cancer will benefit from reading Miles musings about dying - no make that musings about living with dying. The rest of us can just read it to laugh. We do not even have to notice what a good example he has been for us. I hope we all try to be like Miles and face our deaths with such calm.

Did Miles himself choose the book's title after offering so many suggestions? I'll bet his dog Berry does miss him. I think it is the right title.

Miles does stray from the topic of living with cancer much of the time, which is probably why it is so entertaining. He was still enjoying life so much as he wrote. I enjoyed how far afield he went as he told us stories. The story about his father-in-law Nick Carter longing to become an assassin before he died was unusual to say the least. It did make me think. If we gave dangerous assignments only to those about to die anyway, could we also decide that only people about to die anyway fight our wars? No one under eighty could touch a gun or the remote control to any type of bomb without a signed affidavit from a physician. Would Miles like such an idea?

We did not know Miles well in America. Looking through our library catalogs, I see many British titles, but only three American books to which he contributed: Great Railway Journeys of the World, Great Journeys, and The Giants of Jazz. He seems to have known and liked Michael Palin and Terry Jones. We like them in America. I suspect we would have like Miles as well. If I ever get to England, I'll have to look for his books at used book stores. Maybe I'd find collections of his columns from Punch, The Times, or The Independent.

Well, I'll let you get back to selling book ideas for your clients.

Wishing you many bestsellers,

Kington, Miles. How Shall I Tell the Dog? and Other Final Musings. Newmarket Press, 2009. ISBN 9781557048417

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