A Therapy Session of Sorts

May 22, 2013

by Louis Borgenicht

My trainer, whom I work with once a week, calls me a recreational overachiever. Initially I thought it was because it seemed to him that I simply did too much to avoid doing something constructive, but when I asked him what he meant, he suggested that with all of my recreational pursuits there was a common theme.

I play tennis twice a week, golf once or twice, fly fish, ride my road bike, and nap. His contention is that I am not at all competitive; I simply enjoy them. I do not need to win, never keep score in golf, enjoy the moment when I am fishing, don’t care if someone passes me on the bike, and wallow in the pleasure of a short nap.

All of which may explain why my reading suffers. So the other day I stopped in at The King’s English for a little therapy from Jan and Anne. I parked in the 15 minute slot across the street. I figured that I could only afford a short session rather than the de rigueur 50-minute therapeutic hour.

“I need some therapy,” I said making eye contact only with Anne. Jan and I have a long-standing sardonic relationship.

They both laughed though.

“I am currently reading a month old issue of The New Yorker and have a ten inch stack of the New York Times Magazine. Plus about fifty articles I have saved on my Mac, not to mention the book, People Who Eat Darkness, on my bed stand.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I feel guilty about not devoting as much time to reading as I do to anything else,” I said.

Anne said, “Get rid of your New York TImes Magazines. Just toss them out.”

“But there might be really interesting articles in them,” I said, feeling a sense of expectation. I live my life through the phrase “but what if?” My glass is usually half full.

Jan simply watched the evolving conversation but I knew what she would have had to say.

The meter maid had not come by to to ticket me for overtime parking but I was getting nervous that my session was nearly over.

I knew that I would have a hard time tossing out something as august as the New York TImes Magazine.

I turned to both Anne and Jan and said, “I think I need to program my time better. You know maybe give up a golf game.” I knew I would not be able to do it.

Then Jan said, “Yeah, maybe you will have time to read Anna Karenina.”

I looked at my smart phone; my fifteen minutes was up. Thank god.


Such an iPhone Guy

December 10, 2012

By Louis Borgenicht

I am definitely not a techno-freak but I admit being seduced over the years by PC’s and most recently Apple products. The conversion from years of non-Mac computers was not difficult.

“Macs are intuitive,” my middle aged kids assured me.

So a few years I bought a freestanding gMac, followed by a portable MacBook Air, and a first generation iPad (currently used by my wife to look up recipes or to Google something during a dinner conversation). Oh yes, both of us own iPhones. It took me a year of frustrating Droidness before I broke down and got one.

I like them all. And until I broke down and bought my iPhone, I suffered the pangs slung by friends about my techno-logic stupidity.

“Lou you are such an iPhone guy,” they insisted over lunch as I tried to open an app on my Droid.

And on recent trip to France I became convinced—I was one lucky son-of-a-bitch. Walking on the beach in St. Malo, I listened to my iTunes: the latest album I had downloaded by a French harmonica player, Gregoire Maret. Back at the terasse of our B & B, I collected my e-mail and responded to people halfway around the world, read the online version of the Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times, checked out the weather in Kamas, heard the latest joke from Old Jews Telling Jokes and marveled how I could do so much from the Apple device.

On my return to Salt Lake I was confronted by another technological dilemma. David, my son the publisher, had three reading devices in his house : a Nook, a Kindle, and his most recent purchase, a Kobo. The Kings English, our favorite independent book store in SLC had started selling the latter exclusively.

During one of my weekly visits to the store, I looked at the device unconvinced. But the seed had been planted. I asked Dave to tell me a reason I should think about buying a Kobo. I love the aesthetic of holding a book in my hand and saw myself as a pariah if I converted to a reader.

“Dad, you know there are books you read that you will never read again and just sit on your shelves until you donate them to the library,” David said.

“Yes,” I realized. “I guess it is an ecologic issue. That makes sense.”

The next day I went to The Kings English and bought a Kobo. I didn’t feel sheepish or embarrassed; I knew I was being environmentally responsible.

I downloaded my first book: The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton. Now I just have to find time to read it.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in digital reading–or want an e-reader for the techie on your list–we hope you’ll stop by to test-drive a Kobo for yourself. You can even order them from us online. The best part? Sign up for Kobo using this link and we’ll earn a portion of every e-book you buy from Kobo for years to come. Without buying a device at all, you can also download a free Kobo app for iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Nook, and Sony Reader. Learn how here. If you’re ready to give it a try, download the appropriate app here.


Evolution of a literary distraction

February 13, 2012

by Louis Borgenicht

Since the advent of the Internet my reading habits have dramatically changed.

Truth to tell I never learned the proper lessons from childhood: my mother was a voracious reader consuming several books in a day. As a youth I recall wallowing in Nancy Drew mysteries and the historical novels of Geoffrey Trease and would actually sit for lengths of time in bed before falling asleep.

Trease was a British writer of 113 books; the Nancy Drew mysteries were written by a variety of authors under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, a fact I recently learned from  Wikipedia. But the lessons learned in childhood did not last long; I rarely read for extended periods of time.

Readers of this blog have learned about my New Yorker angst, long ago making my peace with being behind.

Similarly, I have had problems with the Sunday New York Times. The drive to read it on the day it is tossed unceremoniously onto my snowless driveway is just not there. Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I would make a special effort to read the news of the week in Review immediately feeling I had to get the heady stuff out of the way first. If I waited until the end of the week to read it I would likely not.

Now I have become more lackadaisical. I glance at the front section, peruse the Arts section mainly to see if some spectacular television offering is coming up, and then relegate the business, sports, and travel section (unless there is an article on some destination we hope to visit) to the recycle bin. Living in SLC there is no urgency in getting through the Times at one sitting; years ago living in NYC there was a hip pleasure buying the Sunday Times on Saturday night along with fresh real bagels,
going to bed shortly after midnight, and awakening leisurely on Sunday morning knowing I had everything I needed.

The Internet has exacerbated my tendency to literary distraction. Emails were the first step. There are decisional issues: you read an email and have to decide whether to erase it immediately or retain it for future reference. This is particularly true if a friend sends you something with the subject “FYI or I thought you might like this.” You can open the attachment, give it a quick glance and file it somewhere for future reference.

That is the problem: future reference. It feeds into possibility and hope. Will I read it? If so when? Where will I find it if I finally decide to read it?

Unless you are incredibly disciplined you will forget about it, discovering days or months later when you accidentally open a file you did not know existed. The moment of truth arrives as your guilt wells: read it or delete it sight unseen.

This short-order reading has affected my dealing with real books. I rarely take the time to sit down for upwards of half an hour in a comfortable chair and just read. It would be lovely to do so, meditative even. But my brain has been programmed for distraction.

Even at night I am only able to read for five minutes before falling asleep. It is clearly the fault of the computer. I have often thought that Apple should give every new customer a prescription of Ritalin with each new computer to minimize attention deficit.

Only then might I get back to the good old days of my youth.


Spread the Joy of Reading with World Book Night

January 16, 2012

By Mona Awad

How would you like to give away free copies of your favorite book?

Sign up now to be a giver for World Book Night 2012, an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books. Following its highly successful launch in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night will be held in the U.S. on April 23, 2012, and will see tens of thousands of people go out into their communities to spread the joy of reading by handing out free World Book Night paperbacks. You’ll help promote the value of reading, printed books, bookshops and libraries to everyone all year.

How you can do it:

Sign up to be a giver. Receive free books. Give them away.

It’s as easy as going to the World Book Night website. Need some ideas? Consider these… Distribute Peace Like a River at the Trax station near the main library. Hand out The History of Love at the Senior Centre. Give out Wintergirls at your neighborhood school.

By signing up to be a giver, you’ll join thousands of givers on April 23rd in spreading the love of reading and books in your community. Remember, sign up only throughout the month of January.


TKE Mystery Book Group’s Trip to San Francisco

September 1, 2011

Editor’s Note: Long-time TKE bookseller, book group leader and mystery maven Wendy Foster Leigh, organized a magical mystery tour of San Francisco last month. Here’s Wendy’s take on the adventure.

The Armchair Travel Mystery Group meets regularly at The King’s English in that dark little mystery room upstairs. We are constantly asking, “What do you think the author was thinking?”…and then we guess. We wanted to ask Cara Black what she was thinking when she began her Murder in Paris series and since she couldn’t come to Salt Lake City, we went to see her in San Francisco! Because the books are set in Paris, we chose the Hotel Triton in the French area of Bush and Grant streets near Union Square. The hotel has a French feel to it complete with its hotel dog, Romeo, and the sound of French spoken in the lobby. Bush Street is filled with French food and the trip suddenly became an eat, read, and talk event.

Bookshop West Portal by local artist Eleanor Burke

On Friday, local artist Eleanor Burke joined us for a tour of the Mission District. She is the author of Sketching San Francisco; book club member, Roxy Nakamura called it “a love letter to San Francisco…the color sketches evoke memories of favorite spots and offer endless ideas for future exploration.” Eleanor led the group down Mission Street to Balmy and Clarion alleys for a discussion of the many murals (including some about books!) which reflect the passions of the District. Then it was off to lunch at El Delfin, followed by the Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlor for Thai Chili Sherbet. We even made a stop at Dave Egger’s Pirate Shop at 826 Valencia, a writer’s workshop for young people which is also a wonderful mixture of kitsch for old and young alike.

Saturday night arrived and off we went for a busman’s holiday at Bookshop West Portal and a discussion with Cara about the adventures of Aimee Leduc and the Leduc Detective Agency. Roxy pointed out that our book club “couldn’t help telling Cara the ways we hoped the story would progress.” Cara smiled an enigmatic smile that meant…“you don’t know how the books will end and I do! So there.” Luckily, Cara doesn’t seem eager to end Aimee’s adventures. (Latest hardback Murder in Passy is at TKE, but we talked about Murder in the Latin Quarter, #9 in the series.) West Portal is a friendly neighborhood and Bookshop West Portal is an independent bookshop comparable to TKE. Owners Neil and Kevin set up the back room for our group and some other PALS (Parents of Alumni of Lick-Wilmerding High School), where I used to teach in SF). The guys even had copies of The King’s English by Betsy Burton for our San Francisco hosts. PALS group members drove us to the home of Stuart and Deborah Oppenheim for a Mediterranean feast and mixer. One day, perhaps we can host the PALS group and Kevin and Neil in Salt Lake at TKE.

Snapped by Cara Black

Planning this trip began months ago with only members of the Armchair Travel Mystery Group, but it “grew like Topsy” until there were 14 of us. Thanks to everyone for being so much fun: Rachel, Robert, Paula, Linda, Mira, Jeanne, Debbie, Roxy, Jim, Michelle, Rhonda, Josh and my truly helpful husband, Larry.

Each participant probably has a favorite moment to share with the group. Mine was a quiet one at the Chinese Culture Center painting with my 90- year-old teacher, Mrs. Fu, and shopping at The New Unique Company for Chinese brushes and inks. Sometimes the silent times mean as much as the busy ones and creating a plum blossom can be as mysterious as reading a novel.

Wendy Foster Leigh


New Yorkers Redux

August 24, 2011

By Louis Borgenicht

So several months ago I wrote a piece about New Yorker angst for the this blog. Several readers commented that I had hit the proverbial nail on the head. Nothing satisfies a writer more than hearing that.

But since then I have have come to realize that my relationship with The New Yorker is unrequited. The Webster’s definition of “unrequited” does not really fill the bill: not reciprocated or returned in kind. But it turns out I expect something in turn from The New Yorker. It is not a rational thought.

For whatever reason I expect that if I manage to read the magazine and “get it out of the way” I will be rewarded; I will assuredly be ahead of the game. But the next week there was another one in my mailbox.

There was a time when I thought it important to read New Yorkers in chronological sequence, a vestige of my Type A New York childhood. Now I have a vertical file stash of unread magazines (including The Atlantic and Vanity Fair) in my study and I simply grab one at random on my way out of the house curious to see what I have chosen for the day.

I feel naked without a magazine. You never know when you are going to have a spare minute while waiting for an oil change, in the checkout line at Whole Foods, before a meeting, even going golfing (the magazine fits neatly into a side pocket of my golf bag), if you arrive early for a lunch date. Just having an issue of The New Yorker on the passenger seat is eminently reassuring.

I finally got up the courage to publicly admit my dilemma with a post on Facebook today: I am sitting on 8 unread issues of The New Yorker.

Here are some of the responses:

“I bring them to my clinic and put them in the waiting room. I think it says something awful about a clinic when people in the waiting room have time to read an article in The New Yorker.”

“Usually use a telephone book. Can you reach the table? The magazines aren’t very thick these days. ”

“It is really hard to read them with your a%*!!!”

A partial solution to my dilemma is to grab a New Yorker, peruse the cartoons, scan the index, and read nothing in sequence. This approach takes the pressure off.

One intriguing take on the issue is to Google “unread New Yorkers.” I did it and discovered no one with my unique angst.

Hardly reassuring.


TKE Takes 5 with Rae Meadows

July 1, 2011

by Lynn Kilpatrick

Rae Meadows is the author of Mothers and Daughters, published this May by Henry Holt. She has written two previous novels, No One Tells Everything (2008) and Calling Out (2006). I had the privilege of getting to know Rae when we were both students at the University of Utah, studying creative writing and getting together occasionally to whack around a tennis ball. After I read Mothers and Daughters this spring, I had some questions for Rae. She took time out of her busy schedule touring to promote her book, and as the mother of two daughters herself, to answer some of my questions.

The King’s English (Lynn Kilpatrick): One of the first things I noticed as I was reading Mothers and Daughters was the relationship between your book, Virginia Woolf, and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I really liked the way you used the three-part/three-character structure, and, like The Hours, there were direct references to Woolf. How would you characterize your book’s relationship to these other works?

Rae Meadows: I was definitely inspired and influenced by The Hours, particularly Cunningham’s use of a three-part structure with characters who don’t overlap in real time. I liked how this functioned to collapse time and memory. I was also appreciative of the book’s spareness and quiet drama. I was a little worried about directly referencing Virginia Woolf (Is it allowed? Is it like sampling in a song? Is it frowned upon?) but it seemed right for the character of Iris. I really did set out to write a novel about women and I kept coming back to To the Lighthouse.

TKE: Can you talk about your decision to write the book from three different points of view? This seemed like a departure from your other books, which each focus on one main character.

RM: Admittedly part of this decision came from becoming a mother and having to figure out some way to approach a novel in short bursts of time. For me it seemed more manageable to break it down into multiple points of view. I actually wrote each of the character’s sections separately because I couldn’t yet conceive of the whole. As you know, the entirety of a novel is such a scary behemoth to consider.

TKE: How did your book become a best seller in the Netherlands?

RM: Your guess is as good as mine! It’s such a funny thing. I liked the cover—they used a vintage photograph of a woman holding a little girl’s hand, seen from behind. There is something subtly ominous about it, which appealed to me, at least. (Or maybe the Dutch just have good taste?)

TKE: How do you finish a draft? Many writers begin projects, but have a hard time getting to the end of a finished draft and then there’s revision! How do you do it?

RM: I have no idea how to write a novel! I’m looking into the abyss these days, unable to get started on something new. For Mothers and Daughters, I slogged out two pages a day until a messy first draft was completed, and I tried not to think too far down the road. I have to commit to those kind of modest but unwavering goals for myself or I’d never write at all.

TKE: What kind of historical research did you do for Mothers and Daughters?

RM: I loved researching for this book. It kind of felt like cheating. I read books about the orphan trains, both first-hand accounts of riders and histories of social welfare, which gave me more context. For turn-of-the-century New York City flavor, I found my best tools to be period accounts of church women who would go into poor neighborhoods and report what they had seen. And there are some incredible things you can find online, of course, particularly photographs, which kick-started scenes for me. For my next novel, I’m doing historical research again—this time on the Dust Bowl—and it’s a great way to procrastinate. Sure I’ll get writing, I just have to read one more book first…

You can keep up with Rae, and see pictures of the Dutch posters for Mothers and Daughters on her blog.