Friday, March 24, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 19-03-2017)


The uncomfortably warm sun on Sunday morning while I was at Abids was a clear indication that summer was down upon us in Hyderabad. I’ve taken to wearing a cap and also carrying a bottle of water with me to Abids on the Sunday book hunts at Abids. I can well imagine how it would be in the weeks to come. On the first day of March the Met Dept had predicted that it would be another hot summer this year too. I do not understand what to do if it becomes unbearably hot even to step outside. But I am worrying needlessly I guess.
I found two titles at Abids last Sunday. Curiously enough, in one of the Sunday papers, Sunday Express I guess I had read a review of the latest novel by Omar Shahid Hamid. I had been reading quite a bit about this Pakistani policeman and his novels and had wondered if I would get the time to read any book by him if I ever managed to find a copy. I was a bit thrilled when the first book I spotted at Abids turned out to be ‘The Prisoner’ by Omar Shahid Hamid which was in a line of books laid out on the ground very close to the place where I park my bike. The seller asked for a ridiculously high price but I managed to bring it down a little, to a level I could afford to buy the book. He asked for a hundred and fifty rupees and I got it for a hundred. Not bad.
The second title I found was a title I already have a copy of. Sometime back I had found a copy of the complete screenplay of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by Quentin Tarantino and had got it for quite cheap. Last Sunday I found another copy of the same title and this copy too I got very cheap for just thirty rupees. It was in a beautiful condition and after finding it I realized that I had not read it so far though I had found it almost two years back. It is my plan to read it one of these days.

A futile hunt for a title I missed buying the Sunday before showed how dumb I could be sometime. I had seen a copy of a James Salter novel whose title I cannot recollect now however hard I try. I had tried a tactic to bring down the price but obviously it failed. When a seller quotes a price and I quote a price in return I try to walk off as if to pretend I was not interested. Usually the seller calls me back and gives it to me at the price I asked but last week though I walked off the seller did not call me. So I walked away thinking I would get the book the next Sunday. Next Sunday was last Sunday and the book was nowhere to be seen that made me quite mad at myself. If I cannot find it the next Sunday then I would assume that someone smarter than me had bought it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 12-3-2017)

Once again I netted a good haul last Sunday at Abids. I found no less than five wonderful titles that took the year’s total haul so far to forty one books. I am a bit anxious about the recent hauls because there seems to be no way I can read all the books I am finding. I am telling myself that I would spend days reading them after retiring from this job. But it is another five years before I retire and until then I might add another thousand or so books. There is no way I can read all the books I have with me now that I have yet to read so I seriously thinking of either stopping going to Abids or not buy anything unless it is a title that is absolutely irresistible. I’ve made such resolves earlier too but haven’t stuck to them because I love books too much to follow such ideas.
Since more than a couple of weeks I’ve been seeing ‘First Love, Last Rites’ by Ian McEwan at a seller but somehow I did not pick it up. But last Sunday after I saw it again I decided to buy it and did. It is a collection of the following eight stories: Solid Geometry; Homemade; Last Day of Summer; Cocker at the Theatre; Butterflies; Conversation with Cupboard Man; First Love, Last Rites; and Disguises. There was another title that I picked up along with it and that was ‘The Writing of One Novel’ by Irving Wallace that I have bought earlier too several times. Somehow I cannot resist buying books on writing so in it went into my haul. I got these two titles for just sixty rupees.
After finding these two books I found another good title. I saw ‘Monster’ by John Gregory Dunne who is Joan Didion’s husband. It was a book on the experience he had while writing a screenplay and since I like to read such stuff, especially about screenwriting, I decided to buy it. The seller asked for price that I thought was impossibly high though it was a hardcover title and was in a quite good condition. I quoted my price and walked off knowing that I’d get it at my price because he did not put it back but held it in his hand and thought for a long time while looking at the book. After sometime he called me and asked for a price just ten rupees more than what I had quoted. I paid 120 rupees for it and got it. A few steps away in a pile of books being sold for thirty rupees I saw ‘God’s Adversary and Other Stories’ by Shaukat Osman. What drew me to this book was the fact that it was a Penguin title and I remembered reading about this writer somewhere.
The next find was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally. Though I had already bought four books I stopped at the three sellers at Chikkadpally to look at their wares out of sheer habit. I saw a copy of ‘Children of the Alley’ by Naguib Mahfouz who had won the Nobel for literature. Though the seller asked for a high price I bought it. I paid ninety rupees for it and I think the book would be worth more than what I paid for it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 05-03-2017)


Last Sunday was one of those not-so-rare Sundays when every title in the haul at Abids was a treasure. Usually, one or two titles in my average haul of 3-4 books happen to be outstanding titles but once in a while all the titles in the haul are truly good titles ( or titles that I think are good) that fill me with a lot of joy at finding them. On Sunday the haul at Abids consisted of three books and all of them were titles that one cannot find so easily and at such low prices. It was my second or third Sunday of the year when the entire haul was a treasure.
There are a couple of sellers in the lane at Abids where I park my bike before setting off to look for books on the pavements. I usually begin by checking out their wares first before going on a predetermined circuit I follow every Sunday. My first find was in the spread of books laid out on the pavement by one of the sellers in the lane. I spotted ‘Break, Blow, Burn’ by Camille Paglia and picked it up to take a closer look at the cover where it said ‘reads forty three of the world’s best poems.’ I glanced inside and found that the book belonged to a professor in an engineering college that I pass everyday on my way to work.
I have never before come across anyone who explained poems to me. This was the first such book so I thought I should buy it right away. But when the seller quoted two hundred and fifty rupees for it I hesitated for a while. Holding the hardcover book with the pink cover in my hand I had an internal conversation with myself about whether it was worth buying the book at that high price. I told myself that I would almost never find anything like it especially something by Camille Paglia. Seeing my reluctance the seller lowered the price to two hundred prices and finally settled at a hundred and eighty rupees that I told him I was ready to pay for it.
Sometime later I met Shrikant and after our usual talks about books, movies, and other subjects of mutual interest at the café we were out again. It wasn’t very hot and so we could browse comfortably. I found another book with a pink cover-The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown. The book was another massive tome with nearly five hundred pages of small print. Though I knew it would be quite some time before I found the time to read it I bought the book because I was getting it for only thirty rupees. I had never read anything by Tina Brown so I bought it.
I moved on farther holding the two books I had just found and feeling quite pleased with myself. I thought my Sunday was made and that it did not matter if I did not find anything else. I wasn’t really looking but when we reached the seller who sets shop before the GPO I found a title I had already read but did not own a copy of. I saw just the name ‘Atul Gawande’ peeping out from underneath a book on top of it. I knelt down and stretched my hand to take out the book from the spread. My heart gave a leap when I saw that it was ‘Being Mortal’ which was the latest of Atul Gawande. It was an almost new hardcover copy and I knew I had to buy it. The only problem again turned out to be the cost. The seller asked for three hundred and fifty rupees which was more than half the price printed on the back. After some hard bargaining I managed to lower the price to a hundred and fifty rupees. I felt elated that at last I had my own copy of ‘Being Mortal’ that I had read sometime last year after borrowing the copy that Uma had ordered online. I wish I could now find ‘Gene’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee at Abids sometime soon.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 26-2-2017)


Last Sunday at Abids it wasn’t as hot as it was the Sunday before. It was sunny and warm when I reached Abids at my usual time of eleven. Apart from the good weather the other good thing was the presence of my friends who turned up after a long time. We sat for a long time in the café talking books, movies, and catching up on our lives until that day. To top up I ended up with a nice haul of four books.
Sometime last month I finished reading Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography-The Magic Lantern- that I had found in October at Abids. I enjoyed reading about his trials and tribulations during his life in the movies. I don’t remember if he had mentioned in it that he had also written another book. I was surprised to find another Ingmar Bergman title last Sunday. It was ‘Sunday’s Children,’ a novel, translated from Swedish by Joan Tate that I picked up from the pavement. I got it quite cheap at just thirty rupees.
With the same seller I also found an EM Foster title- The Hill of Devi- which seems to be some sort of correspondence with someone about the time Foster was in the employ of some kind of royalty in an Indian state. It seemed interesting because it was one of those Orient Paperbacks editions issued sometime in the fifties or sixties with beautiful covers. I took the book primarily for the cover and because of the fact that it was an Orient-Mayfair Paperbacks title. I also noticed that the publisher was Arnold-Hienemann. It was quite cheap too, just thirty rupees.
The best part of the copy of ‘The Hill of Devi’ that I found was finding a small label pinned to the first page with the words ‘ With Best Complements from B.P. Agarwalla, Dhansar’ typed in blue colour on it. It made wonder who B.P.Agarwalla was and who the book was intended for.
Walking further down the street I had seen a collection of contemporary American short stories that seemed very interesting because there was a story by James Slater in it and other writers. Though I wanted to buy it the stiff price quoted by the seller put me off and I moved on. Then in a heap of books selling for only thirty rupees I spotted a book by an author with a name I had seen minutes before in the collection of American short stories. The book I saw was ‘In Country’ by Bobbie Ann Mason and I took it though until then I had not heard the name of this writer.
The fourth and last find of the Sunday’s haul was a small but beautifully designed cookbook. It was one in a series of ‘Quick and Easy Indian’ cookbooks by Roli Books. The one I found was ‘Simply Vegetarian’ that I made a grab for the moment I saw it. It has more than fifty recipes for starters and main courses with beautiful photographs of the dishes that made my mouth water. I was surprised that something so well designed could be produced in Indian but when I read inside I realized that the book was printed and bound in, where else, China.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 19-02-2017)

It was only after finishing reading ‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Graham Greene that I decided to read everything he had written. I had already acquired a few titles by him, some that I picked up at Abids and other places without knowing how well he wrote. I had read about ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ somewhere a long time back but couldn’t find it anywhere. Last Sunday, however, at last I came across a decent enough copy of ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ that I snapped up the moment I laid my eyes on it. I got it for just twenty rupees.

On Saturdays Business Line comes out with its supplement ‘Blink’ that I had begun reading a couple of years back for its interesting mix of articles. It is not easy to find ‘Business Line’ with the usual vendors because it seems the paper gets sold out soon enough. Only a few vendors have enough issues that can be found at any time. I usually buy it at a vendor at Lakdikapul. Last suggested the vendor asked me if I wanted ‘Mint’ as well and offered it to me assuming I wouldn’t say no. So I took it and sometime after returning home from work I found the time to read it. Inside was a very interesting article titled ‘The Slow Rise’ by Neha Bhatt that was about artisanal and home-made breads. It was a wonderful piece about how some people were baking some interesting breads.
After reading the piece my mind immediately went back to a book that I had been seeing with a seller at Abids which was also something about home-made breads. It was a big tome with an attractive cover that tempted me a few time to buy it just for the heck of it but I did not succumb to that temptation. But the next day which happened to a Sunday, when I saw the book at Abids I picked it up to take a closer look. It was ‘Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads’ and was in a good condition. I hesitated wondering what I would do with that book because I had no intention to bake bread at home. But I bought the book just because the cover was very attractive and the fact that it might come in handy in case I suddenly decided to chuck my job and open a bakery.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Birthday Haul


On the sixth of this month I turned fifty four. I am yet to believe that I have actually crossed fifty years. As the age increases the gifts seemed to be coming down. However, there are two friends who never fail to give me a present on my birthday. This year too they offered to present whichever title I wanted since they knew I loved to get books as gifts. So I chose two books. I told M to send me ‘Ghachar Ghochar’ by Vivek Shanbhag and when I went with Hari to Landmark I picked up ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi.
I had actually picked up ‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh but when I saw ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ I picked it up instead. It isn’t a book to be read by those in their fifties especially around their birthdays. It is a crushingly sad account of a young neurosurgeon’s account of his struggle with lung cancer that ultimately defeats him. I felt terrible after reading the book and for a couple of days I found it difficult to shake away thoughts of death that were in mind all the time.
On Sunday I had been to Abids but I hadn’t found anything worth buying there. So I returned empty handed which felt good for a change. I hope next Sunday I will find something good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 5-2-17)


Since the beginning of this year I’ve brought home an average of four books from Abids every Sunday. Last month I hauled in a total of twenty odd books and last Sunday I picked up four more books. If this trend goes on I guess there would be a small mountain of books at home. Every Sunday before starting for Abids I make a resolve to pick up just one book if I cannot help it but end up buying more than one title. So last Sunday when I saw four good titles I was unable to resist not buying them.
My first two finds last Sunday was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally. The seller had some fresh stock and the books appeared all new. I found a wonderful copy of ‘In the Heart of the Country’ by J.M. Coetzee that I snapped up as it was almost brand new. The next find was ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’ by Rahul Pandita. This was another brand new book. There were more than a dozen new titles in the stock with the seller at Chikkadpally including Mihir Sharma’s ‘Restart’ that I somehow did not buy. I got these two titles at thirty rupees each.
I thought of returning home with these two books but my Sunday is never complete without a visit to Abids so I went on. I hadn’t met my friends since a couple of weeks so I thought they’d be disappointed if I do not turn up. However I was a bit disappointed that none of my usual Abids friends turned up. Alone I went around and chanced upon two wonderful titles- one about writing and the other about reading- two things I love to do.
Apart from books that I have loved reading I also buy multiple copies of books on reading and writing because someone or the other is always asking me for books on writing. So last Sunday when I spotted yet another copy of ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott I picked it up. It was in good condition and I was getting it quite cheap. I had found my first copy of this title a long time but after a long search. ‘Bird by Bird’ is a recommended read for anyone who plans to begin writing and, as I have found, it is quite an useful book for writers taking their first steps.
The second find was about reading. It was a nice copy of ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren. The previous owner of this book seemed to have read this book thoroughly because it is underlined, passages highlighted, and remarks written in the pages of this copy. I think I had read about this book a long time back and had also made a note of the title in one of my notebooks. I am glad I found this wonderful book about reading a book, and naturally, I am eager to read this book right away.

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Double Haul

A Weighty Haul
The New Year began with a wee bit of luck in store for me. Eight months after the posting in a district I was shifted to Hyderabad. I will post about this stroke of luck and my new place of posting sometime later. More than anything one reason why I wanted to be in Hyderabad was to be able to drop in at the second hand bookstores and also to be able to attend literary events such as book launches and readings whenever I wanted. Within a fortnight of being transferred I got the opportunity to drop in at a second hand bookstore and haul in a tidy collection of books. I also got to attend the Hyderabad Literary Festival where again I found two more titles in book stalls there.

On the Republic Day (26th Jan) after attending the flag hoisting event at my new workplace in the morning I stopped at a second hand bookstore on the way back home. Nowadays second hand bookstores in Hyderabad have started selling books by weight. I wanted to check out if I could find something of worth in the MR Bookstore in Begumpet so I landed there early in the afternoon on Republic Day. I had the whole day before me so I decided to spend at least a couple of hours in the store looking at each and every title to see if I’d be able to find something good.
Only the week before I had finished reading ‘CAL’ by Bernard MacLaverty that I had found some time back at Abids. It turned out to be extremely good and enjoyed reading the interesting love story of Cal, the protagonist. After finishing reading it I gave it to Hari to read. At the MR store I found another Bernard MacLaverty title- ‘Grace Notes’ that I got for fifty rupees. I was thrilled to find it and afterwards I went into the section where the books were to be sold by weight. It was downstairs where there seemed to be thousands of titles on the shelves. I got down to looking at the titles hoping to find enough books to make up a kilo which was the minimum one had to buy. The books were priced at Rs 120 per kilo. I got lucky and found four good titles.
The first title was another Bernard MacLaverty title- ‘Lamb’- that was also made into a movie like the other title I had read-CAL. So I was mighty thrilled and breathless I searched carefully. I found a hardcover copy of ‘The Man Within My Head’ by Pico Iyer. The jacket had a piece missing on the front but otherwise it was in good condition so I picked it up though I already have another copy of this same title. The next find was ‘Bomber’s Law’ by George V.Higgins, a writer whose books I don’t want to miss reading. I had been hunting for ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ but haven’t found it so far but any book by George V. Higgins is worth picking up. Only recently I had found his ‘Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years’ at Abids last December. The last find was ‘A Home in the Sky’ by Vaasanthi.
These four titles added up to a little more than a kilo that cost me just a hundred and thirty rupees. It means I got these books for a little over thirty rupees each. It surely is a ‘heavy haul.’

The HLF Haul
A day after I bought the books by weight at MR Bookstore the Hyderabad Literary Festival began. However I wasn’t able to attend on the first day but I took a day off on Saturday and landed at the Hyderabad Public School. As usual, there was the stall by Oxford Publishers and one stall by Best Books.
At the Oxford stall I picked up ‘Roots’ by Malayatoor Ramakrishnan for seventy rupees. At the Best Books stall I picked up a title I had missed buying at the Annual Hyderabad Book Fair last month. It was ‘People of the City’ by Cyprian Ekwensi. I got this book too for seventy five rupees. I had read somewhere that this book was published much before Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’ With these two books the number of books I had bought in the first month of the New Year stands at twenty already.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Sunday Haul


At Abids last Sunday it felt like a mid-summer morning because it was unbearably hot even though it wasn’t yet noon. It felt like summer was already upon us and I have a feeling that this summer it is going to be very hot, hotter than what it was last summer. Last Sunday’s visit to Abids resulted in only one book in the haul. I found a book by someone who had left the IAS and written a book titled ‘Why I am Not a Civil Servant.’ It was by Ajay Singh Yadav who, I read in the book, had launched a political party and also contested the general elections. It sounded interesting because I have heard of other people who left the IAS and either joined politics (Jaya Prakash Narayan of Lok Satta) or joined the private sector.
On Monday, I dropped in at the Akshara bookstore in Jubilee Hills. It happens to be quite near to the place where I am working now in a different posting about which I plan to write in another post. The first thing that struck me as soon as I entered the store was the smell of books that I could never find in other stores. It made me feel at home and I spent about an hour checking out the stock in another room at the back where I had found some interesting titles on an earlier visit sometime last year. This time too there were a lot of books I wanted to buy but I ended up buying just one. I picked up a story collection titled ‘The Last Exit’ by Nirmal Verma, the acclaimed Hindi writer, for just fifty rupees.
A long time back I had watched an interview with Nirmal Verma on DD but unfortunately I had not paid much attention to what he said because at that time I was not as interested in knowing about writers as I am now. I only remember that he discussed about his stay in Czechoslovakia and the Sahitya Akademi award that he got for his book. The book I picked up ‘The Last Exit’ is an English translation of the same collection of stories in Hindi- Kavve aur Kaala Paani- that got it the Sahitya Akademi award. It has seven stories including ‘Crows of Deliverance’ that I remember seeing somewhere. But I am glad I found this book that I plan to begin reading right away.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 15-01-2017)

My luck with books seems to be holding on well into the New Year also. In the first two Sundays of this month I found some pretty good titles on the pavements of Abids. I had found titles by Julian Symons(Critical Observations) Frank Harris, and also Jean Genet (Querelle at Brest). Last Sunday again I foudn five good titles which take the tally of books I have bought this month alone to twelve. If I keep buying books at this rate I think I will end up with aother haul of nearly two hundred books by the end of this year also. I cannot help picking up the titles I see because I find them too good to leave behnd like the two Dashiel Hammets I came across last Sunday.
It may sound odd but I love to read film related books though I myself do not watch movies as often as I wish, I watch about two or three moveies in a year which is less than the number of film related books I buy every year. My first find last Sunday at Abids was such a film related book. I found a nice copy of 'Our Films Their Films' by Satyajit Ray. I snapped it up the instant I spotted it. It was a good copy and the seller asked for just thirty rupees for it.
The second find was a book by an author I thought I was familiar with. I saw a copy of 'A Loss of Heart' by Robert McCrum but I wondered if it was the same Robert McCrum who wrote 'My Year Off' and also a book on PG Wodehouse. When I checked the inside pages of ' A Loss of Heart' for list of other titles by the author I did not find 'My Year Off' in it. Later I found online that it was the same author. Since the book was a thriller and the blurbs at the back were impressive I went by my gut instinct and picked it up. I got it for only twenty rupees.
The next find was a title I had sen the Sunday before. I had seen 'Johnny Got His Gun' by Dalton Trumbo but hadn't bought it though the blurb at the back said this: It was a Vietnam war novel and I have read enough titles like it to know how hardhitting and gut churning they are. After some hesitation wondering if I'd be able to take all that I finally bought it thinking I'd be a fool not to read a book that 'Washington Post' says is 'A terrifying book, of extraordinary emotional intensity.'
The next finds were the two Dashiell Hammett titles that I found one after the other. I first saw 'The Maltese Falcon' in a heap selling for only twenty rupees with a seller who did not seem to know its value. I grabbed right away though I have a copy at home. Even before the excitement of finding one of the greatest classics of crime fiction died away I stumbled upon a nice copy of 'The Continental Op' with another seller a few feet away. I was surprised at the coincidence of finding two Dashiell Hammett titles within minutes. I have a copy of 'The Continental Op' too at home but I bought it because I couldn't bear not buying it, and also because I was getting it for just thirty rupees.