Friday, October 18, 2019

The Sunday Haul (on 13-10-2019)

Though the Dasara festival was over the shops were open since Diwali was another two weeks away, and people with lots of money and nothing to do would want to shop. Also there was the marriage season so the regular shops were open last Sunday too. However, apart from a couple of second hand book sellers who had moved to other corners most of them were at their usual places.
I found a title by an author I had read about sometime back- Hanya Yanagihara. I thought I wouldn’t be able to find anything by her and so completely forgot about it. Last Sunday when I saw a copy of ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara at Abids I got a pleasant shock. The second hand book market that comes up at Abids every Sunday is truly a treasure house. The book was more than 700 pages long and I wondered if would be able to read it. But I didn’t hesitate for more than a minute before buying it. The other shock was that I paid only a hundred rupees for it.
Even before the joy of finding ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara had bubbled over I saw another wonderful book. I wasn’t even aware of ‘Figures in a Landscape’ by Paul Theroux so when I saw it with another seller at Abids I felt a thrill of excitement. It was a brand new copy and no wonder the seller asked for a bomb for it. I wasn’t willing to pay so much and so walked away after the seller refused my own offer. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went around looking at other titles until I finally turned around and picked up the copy of ‘Figures in a Landscape’ by Paul Theroux. Not buying it would have been quite a dumb decision because I read that it contains essays that Theroux has written during the period 2001-2016. There are thirty essays in this title, on subjects ranging from Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, Paul Bowles, Somerset Maugham, including one that immediately caught my eye- My Life as a Reader.

I read this essay right away and looked for authors and titles that I might have also read. There was Edmund Wilson’s ‘Memoirs of Hecate County’, B. Traven (whose ‘The Bridge in the Jungle’ I had found a couple of years ago), Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, and also several titles and authors I haven’t read and that I now want to look for at Abids and elsewhere. It is finding books like these that make me want to come to Abids again and again.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Sunday Haul (on 06-10-2019)

Last Sunday the festival shopping season was in full swing with shoppers thronging the stores like it was the last Dasara of their lives. There were some people stepping out of their fancy cars, who appeared like they had enough money to buy up every piece of dress, every pair of footwear from a couple of stores. The second hand booksellers, almost all of them, were at their usual places with a couple of them perched on the fringes. Though it had been raining every day without fail, last Sunday it did not rain until I was back home safe in the afternoon. It began to rain the moment I reached home and the downpour continued for a couple of hours. Though I found just one book I found a wonderful title that I began to read while having chai at the Star of India café in Abids.

There’s something about Australian writers I am drawn to. I have a small collection of books by Australian writers, including books about Australia by other writers on my shelves but I always have a feeling that there’s more that I have to read. Only recently I read about ‘The Choke’ by Sophie Laguna that I jotted down in my TBR list. Sometime next month a friend living in Australia is getting me a couple of books by Gerald Murnane that I am eagerly waiting to read. There was ‘Monkey Grip’ by Helen Garner that I cannot forget even after having read it several years ago.
When I saw a copy of ‘How I Feel’ by Brendan Cowell with the close up of a couple in a lip-lock I picked it up to see what was inside. I had not heard of Brendan Cowell before and when I read that he was an Australian actor, writer, and director I took a closer look. The joy of buying the book was spoilt by one of the greediest seller in Abids who thinks that every book he has is worth at least three hundred rupees which is what he asked me for the copy of ‘How I Feel.’ Anyway, I read the first chapter in the café where I have chai, and it turned out to be quite interesting.

Friday, October 04, 2019

The Sunday Haul

The festival season is upon us which means shopping, shopping, shopping for many. This shopping wave displaces the second hand book sellers at Abids because the regular stores do not close on Sundays during this festival season. Luckily, last Sunday though a few stores were open many of the second hand book sellers at Abids were at their usual places. Once again, I was alone and managed to find two books, both which I already had copies of.
Of course, not content with the three books I bought in the middle of the week, on Saturday once again dropped in at a second hand book store and picked up another book. It was a nice copy of ‘Two Faces of Eve’ by Amrita Pritam. I am both ashamed and also embarrassed to say that though I have read numerous articles about Amrita Pritam, especially last month, I haven’t read anything by her all these years. One reason could be that I couldn’t find a single title of Amrita Pritam till last Saturday when I spotted ‘Two Faces of Eve’ that was one of those 70’s editions that I have come to love. I got it for seventy rupees that I thought was far too less.
Anyway, not very long ago I had found a nice hardcover copy of ‘The Other Side of Me’ by Sidney Sheldon. It was a memoir, and it was by a popular writer which was something I simply cannot resist buying. I have so many memoirs by writers that I have a fair idea of what to write in my own memoir were I to become a writer. I am waiting. Though I do not give away some titles so easily there was someone I know who is such a major fan of Sidney Sheldon that every time we meet (which is about once a month) he tells me he has re-read some title or the other by Sidney Sheldon and we’ve been meeting since more than a decade. Last time we met he told me he had read ‘The Other Side of Midnight’ fifteen times. So I thought he was the right person to give ‘The Other Side of Me’ to since he too writes.
After I gave away that copy of ‘The Other Side of Me’ by Sidney Sheldon to my friend once or twice I wondered if had done the right thing because I too had read it and found it to be very absorbing account. But then last Sunday I found another copy of the same title but in a far better condition than the first copy I had found, which, if I remember correctly, had moisture stains on some pages. This memoir is as racy as the novels Sidney Sheldon writes.
The second book that I bought on Sunday was the outcome of a casual exchange I had with a seller. Usually, on spotting me he wishes me and I move on to look at the books he has displayed and move on to the next seller. Last Sunday I happened to ask him how he was and how business was whereupon he asked me to look at a new collection he had on a shelf in a voice that told me business was dull. I wanted him to cheer up and so bought a copy of ‘My Dateless Diary’ by RK Narayan that I had read ages ago. But I had to pay a price, a steep one, for my casual query about the seller’s business. I had to shell out a hundred rupees for it when I could have got a similar copy at a different seller for half the money.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Midweek Haul

Almost everyone I talked to in my small circle of family and friends seems to have been laid low by the fevers that are raging unabated in this city. Last week, at last, it was my turn and I was in bed for two and half days, that included last Sunday. Though I was in bed I did not stop dreaming about all the books spread out on the pavements at Abids that I would miss checking out. By Tuesday I had recovered from the fever and on Thursday I decided to drop in at a second-hand bookstore to bring down another sort of fever I seemed to have developed- the book fever. Since I was using the Metro train I decided to check out Liberty Books right beside the Durgam Cheruvu metro station in the evening.
About a year ago I had come across a badly damaged copy of ‘The Fall of a Sparrow’ by Salim Ali at Abids. Even though it was in tatters, with termite holes all over, I wanted to buy it because it was a very old edition. But I reluctantly left it alone and felt bad because I haven’t yet read that classic. About a fortnight ago on a visit to Liberty I had seen a good copy of ‘The Fall of a Sparrow’ by Salim Ali but decided to buy it later. It was on my mind all these days and on Thursday when I spotted it again I breathed a sigh of relief.
Last year in July I was in Delhi and had picked up a copy of Simon Winchester’s ‘Calcutta’ that I never got around to reading because of its bulk, and kept telling myself that I would read it one of these days. But before I could read the book on Calcutta by Simon Winchester I found another title on Calcutta at the Liberty Books store. I spotted a beautiful copy of ‘Calcutta: The City Revealed’ sitting atop a stack of books. It was another thick but after some initial hesitation I bought it unable to bear the thought of leaving it behind. I got these two books for under four hundred rupees.

On the way back home I got lucky when a girl mistaking me for a senior citizen offered me her place to sit. It was the perfect excuse for me to begin reading ‘Calcutta’ by Geoffrey Moorhouse, and it was so engrossing that I almost missed getting down at Secunderabad station. After I finish reading this title I plan to start reading Simon Winchester’s Calcutta.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Sunday Haul (on 15.09.2019)

Sometimes, but very rarely though, I get the feeling that I am perhaps too lucky finding good titles almost every Sunday at the second hand book market at Abids. I cannot stop myself from buying all the good books that I see even if it means there are books piled up all over the place at home. Last Sunday, once again, I found four good books that I couldn’t resist buying.
The first book I found at Abids was one that attracted me with its cover. It was a bright yellow one and on the cover was the information about John Updike’s introduction, that it was ‘The Classic novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital’ which was more than enough for me to pick up the copy of ‘The House of God’ by Samuel Shem. On the inside of the back cover I read that Samuel Shem was the pen name of Steve Bergman, a Rhodes scholar and a doctor on the faculty of Harvard medical School and he had written three novels and a non-fiction title with his wife.
By a strange coincidence the second book I found at Abids- ‘The Death of a Beekeeper’ by Lars Gustaffson- was also published in the same year as ‘The House of God’ by Samuel Shem, the first book I found at Abids last Sunday. Published by Collins Harvill, the book has a classy attractive cover which was the first thing that drew my attention to the book. There’s a lot of praise for this book on the back cover so it was another reason, apart from the cover, why I bought this book too. This I got for seventy five rupees.
There’s something about Australian writers and also about Australia that I find very difficult to ignore. Sometime back I had found ‘Monkey Grip’ by Helen Garner and was quite taken up by the unforgettable story. Recently I read Howard Jacobson’s ‘The Land of Oz’ his account of his travels in Australia in the company of his wife who had lived in Australia. There’s another Australian writer I am looking forward to read soon- Gerald Murnane. I have found Ray Ericksen’s ‘West of Centre’ and also ‘Sydney’ by Jan Morris a long time back and also read those books. Last Sunday I found a copy of ‘The Mint Lawn’ by Gillian Mears. I picked up the book after I saw the Penguin logo on the cover and later I read on the cover that Mears was an Australian writer. Needless to say I bought it but I had to pay a hundred rupees for it.
There’s another thing I picked up at Abids along with these three books. It isn’t exactly a book of fiction or non-fiction but it can be called as a student’s guide book on Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Dutchess.’ It had that sort of cover that suggested that it belonged to the 40’s or 50’s but I couldn’t find the date of publication anywhere inside. But the reason I bought it was the name on the cover- The Deccan Publishing House, and the name ‘Chandragupta Press, Afzal Gunj’ on the last page. I don’t think The Deccan Publishing House exists now. This is historically interesting, and I hope to find out more about it.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Sunday Haul (on 8-9-2019)

Last Sunday was one more rain-free one that ended with a three-book haul that I had made at the second hand book market at Abids. Somerset Maugham is another writer I like for his style of writing. I like to give copies of his books to whoever asks me for good books to read. I must have bought at least two dozen copies of his ‘Summing Up’ that I have given away to as many people. Another title of his that I have a couple of copies of is ‘The Razor’s Edge’ that, I am stupid enough to reveal, I am yet to read. Last Sunday I found yet another copy and it turned out to be in quite good condition though the edition of the copy I held was published in the year 1963. In fact it was with a seller who called me and took out several books from a large sack and showed them to me.

From that collection in the sack I found another title. It was a copy of ‘Karmayogi’ by Veena Nagpal that has a nude on the cover and it is the reason why I have not put its photograph. But the nude isn’t the reason why I bought the book. I have begun to pick up books in English written by Indian authors that were published in the 50s and 60s. There are so many such writers who have written several books but are not well known. One such author happens to be Veena Nagpal whose name I haven’t heard anywhere before and whose books also I haven’t found anywhere. So I decided to buy it and add it to my collection of such titles by authors such as Mayah Balse, Nergis Dalal and so on. It was published in 1972 and I got it for a hundred rupees.
It had been a long time since I had picked up a cookbook so when I saw a nice copy of ‘India’s Vegetarian Cooking’ by Monisha Bharadwaj at a seller at Chikkadpally I grabbed it. It was published in the UK and obviously meant for the Westerners. I got it cheap for only hundred rupees.

Friday, September 06, 2019

The Sunday Haul (on 01-09-2019)

It was the first Sunday of September, a rain-free one once again. My weekly trip to the Abids second hand book market ended with four good titles in the haul. Of these four titles two were titles that I already had picked up several copies of earlier.
I am not exactly a fan of Khushwant Singh but I find his books a lot serious and better than his syndicated columns. Sometime back I had found a copy of ‘Khushwantnama’ that had a nice list of books by Indian writers I hadn’t known about. The first book I found at Abids last Sunday was a copy of ‘Around the World with Khushwant Singh’ by Khushwant Singh in a reasonably good condition though the spine appeared to be a bit out of shape. It is a collection of his travel writing edited by Rahul Singh. I got this copy for just thirty rupees.
Next find was my third copy of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak. A copy I had seen with a seller about a year ago I did not buy because he had quoted what I thought was an outrageous price. Last Sunday however the copy I found cost me only twenty rupees. It was in quite good condition and I was glad I found it.
One of my all-time favourite writers is Chinua Achebe and his book that made a big impact on me was ‘Things Fall Apart’ that I, for some reason, came to rather too late in life. But late of whatever I am glad I found it and read it. After reading it I found many copies that I picked up and gave away to people who asked me to recommend a good book to read. Last Sunday I found another copy of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe that was a different edition published by Allied Publishers. The simple looking cover is quite striking and it caught my eye when I was with a seller who had a large spread of books on the pavement. I got it for only forty rupees.
I know it is quite stupid of me but I thought that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger was the only book by Salinger that was worth reading. Though I came across copies of ‘Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters...’ and also ‘Franny and Zooey’ by Salinger I did not buy them, and so have missed reading them. Recently I read somewhere that the short stories by JD Salinger were worth reading and luckily enough I saw a copy of ‘Nine Stories’ by J.D. Salinger with a seller at Chikkadpally on the way home from Abids. It appeared to be quite an ancient copy and when I looked inside I saw a name, place, and date inscribed on it by the previous owner. I couldn’t decipher the name but and the name of the place was Kharagpur and the date underneath the name was July 7, 1965. I was born a year before that which means that the book is 55 years old. The copy was in wonderful condition and I got it for only thirty rupees.

It had, as it says on the cover, nine stories: A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Just Before the War with the Eskimos, The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, For Esme-with Love and Squalor, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes, De-Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period, and Teddy.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Weekend Haul

I hadn’t been to Abids the Sunday before due to things beyond my control. I was vaguely restless until it became too much to bear. I went to the Unique Books second-hand bookstore in Lakdikapul on Saturday. I am very much into crime fiction and so when I saw a copy of ‘Raffles’ E.W. Hornung I picked it up. Moreover it was a Penguin title, something I rarely let pass.
A long time back when I was a teenager I happened to watch ‘Apocalypse Now’ and later Oliver Stone’s ‘Platoon’ and gradually came to know the horror that was the Vietnam war. Then I read some books like ‘Despatches’ by Michael Herr, ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien, ‘In Pharaoh’s Army’ by Tobias Wolff most of which presented one side’s version of the war. Later I realized that there was nothing that revealed the story on the other side. In fact I was keen to find something that would show how the other side, the Vietnamese view so to say, felt about the senseless war that claimed thousands of lives on both sides. I was reconciled to the fact that I may not be able to get hold of such a thing if it existed. But at the Unique bookstore, wedged between two tomes was a narrow, slim volume that had nothing on the spine. I was curious and took the book out.

The book turned out to be ‘The Sorrow of War’ by Bao Ninh. There was a sepia photograph of a helmeted soldier’s and under the title at the top it said ‘The Award-winning Novel from North Vietnam. I opened it and inside I read that it was an English translation by Frank Palmos from the original Vietnamese by Vo Bang Thanh and Phan Thanh Hao with Katarina Pierce, and published by Secker & Warburg, London in 1993. On the back cover were details of Bao Ninh who was born in Hanoi in 1952 who was in the Vietnamese Army and one of the ten survivors out of a 500 strong brigade that was in the 1969 war. I also read that the novel was a huge bestseller in Vietnam.
The next day, a Sunday at Abids I found another crime title- ‘Death May Surprise Us’ by Ted Willis who is another writer new to me. It was a Pan title and appeared very interesting with a lot of praise in the blurbs from Evening Standard, Sunday Times, and Evening Standard. I took a risk and bought the title for thirty rupees only.
The other find at Abids was a copy of ‘Waiting for the Mahatma’ by RK Narayan that I had read ages ago. The reason I picked it up was the beautiful cover of the paper jacket. It was a 1971 reprint published by RK Narayan’s own publishing house- Indian Thought Publications, Mysore. It was in good condition except for the numbers scribbled on the cover of this book that was from the library of a Government Junior College in Hyderabad. I wonder how it got there on the pavements at Abids. I bought this for thirty rupees again.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Weekend Haul

It was a long weekend break for us in the government last week due to the Bakrid Festival. On Saturdays I buy three business papers- Business Line, Mint, and also Business Standard for their weekend supplements that have some interesting features. I usually buy them from a newspaper vendor in Lakdikapul who keeps them aside for me. Last Saturday just before reaching the vendor, I stopped at a second hand bookseller with his books on the pavement opposite the BSNL office. I spotted a beautiful copy of ‘In the Land of Oz’ by Howard Jacobson that I bought right away.
After that I collected the papers from the vendor. Since it was a holiday with nothing much to do I sat in an Irani café and flipped through ‘In the Land of Oz’ by Howard Jacobson and read a few pages. I found it to be very funny and felt glad that I had bought the book since Howard Jacobson’s observations of places and especially the people during his travels in Australia are exceedingly funny. Presently I am reading and enjoying the humor in it.
A couple of minutes’ drive from the Irani café where I sat was a second hand bookstore, the Best Book Centre, Lakdikapul branch. It was where I headed next just to take a look and ended up finding another wonderful book. I found a copy of ‘Over By the River and Other Stories’ by William Maxwell. I have four books by William Maxwell-Time Will Darken It, They Came Like Swallows, So Long See You Tomorrow. He is one of the best writers I have ever read and I cannot resist buying anything written by William Maxwell.

‘Over by the River and Other Stories’ has a dozen short stories. These are: Over by the River, The Trojan Women, The Pilgrimage, The Patterns of Love, What Every Boy Should Know, The French Scarecrow, Young Francis Whitehead, A Final Report, Haller’s Second Home, The Gardens of Mont-Saint-Michel, The Value of Money, and The Thistles in Sweden. I got it for only seventy rupees.
Less than twenty four hours after buying these two books I was again looking for more books. The next day was Sunday and I was at Abids scouring the pavements for interesting titles that could be in the piles of books the second hand book sellers had spread out. At one seller I found a copy of ‘The Way of the World’ by Nicolas Bouvier and I decided to buy it right away. The reason was that it was a travel book and on the cover it said there was an introduction to the book inside by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Then on the way back to my bike I spotted a cover on a book that seemed to stick out in the pile of books it was nestled in. I went closer and picked it up. I saw that it was a beautiful copy of ‘This Time Next Week’ by Leslie Thomas. It was a memoir of the author’s childhood. Leslie Thomas is the author of ‘The Virgin Soldiers’ that I had seen only recently, and also other books. I decided to buy it and since it was in a pile of books selling for twenty rupees only that was what I paid for it.
That was one terrific weekend haul with four wonderful titles.

Friday, August 09, 2019

A Weekend Haul (on 03-08-2019)

On the two days it rained, Friday and Saturday I took the Metro to go to the Institute where I worked. On Saturday evening I decided to check out a second hand book store in Madhapur I check out often. I took the Metro to Durgam Cheruvu station and just under the station was the bookstore. I did not have anything specific in mind but just wanted to see what was on the shelves. Apart from books there was a lot of dust, a thick layer of it in fact on the books. I picked up five books in all but ended up buying only two.
On a previous book I had seen a book that appeared interesting because it was by a journalist who wrote about his interests in music, books, and paintings etc. Somehow I did not buy it thinking it would be quite boring. On this visit I saw it again and went through it a bit more carefully. It was a hardcover copy of ‘Enthusiasms’ by Bernard Levin, a journalist and he wrote about his enthusiasms which were books, architecture, walking, art, and so on. I decided to buy it after reading a few paragraphs which seemed to be to my taste.
Sometime back in November last year I had picked up a copy of ‘The L Shaped Room’ by Lynne Reid Banks at Abids. I looked for the post about it and I am surprised I had not written about finding it and had also not posted a picture of the book’s cover. Anyway, I had read the book and found it to be a wonderful story. I did not know then that it was the first title in a trilogy. Last Sunday at Abids I found the third title in the trilogy- ‘Two is Lonely’ by Lynne Reid Banks. I am glad I found it but it also means that I cannot read it until I find the second title of the trilogy which is ‘The Backward Shadow.’ I have no idea when and where I will find it.
I got these two books for hundred rupees each.