Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The magazine was the only find this Sunday, but there were other books I now wish I had picked up. One was ‘The Diary of a Mad Housewife’ (I don’t remember the author’s name but it was a Penguin imprint) and another was Peter Matthiessen’s ‘Snow Leopard’. I have this book but the copy I saw on Sunday seemed a different edition. I had this book for just twenty bucks in the past, but I knew the seller with whom I saw the book on Sunday wasn’t the sort to sell it for less than a hundred rupees so I did not even ask. But now I wish I had asked the price at least. It appeared to be a good copy and if it is there next week, I might pick it up.
With Diwali only days away, all the regular shops at Abids were open forcing the bookseller to move away to nooks and crannies. But there were more book sellers this Sunday than is usual on such days. I had seen a book by Helene Hanff called ’84 Charing Cross’ or something like that sometime last month at Abids before the festival shopping season began. . I remember the book was reviewed in “Literary Review” of The Hindu a couple of years ago. It is something about a book collector and a bookstore. I wish I had picked up the book the day I saw it. If it is there next week then I will add it to my collection.
Monday, October 27, 2008
There are certain kinds of people I am totally in awe of like those who are good at mathematics and those who write poetry. That is because I can neither solve problems nor write poems. However, when I was very young, I was infatuated by a pretty girl and I spurted poetry at every occasion, day and night. When the scales fell from my eyes the poetry dried up inside me. It is easy, especially when one is infatuated, to write a few lines and call it poetry. But writing the sort of poetry that does something to the heart is very difficult which is one reason I don’t write any.
Writing poetry may not be my cup of tea but I love to read it. In fact, the first book I bought years ago was an anthology of poetry that I still have with me and read occasionally when I feel low. The book has poems by Edna Vincent Millay, ee cummings, Hart Crane and others whose names have stuck in my mind since then. Later on I got to read the Indian poets- AK Ramanujan, Keki Daruwala, Gieve Patel, Nissim Ezekiel and others. Recently I had been to the poetry readings by Anjum Hasan and Sridala Swami, and through her messages I came to know about the Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust and the reading of his poetry by Jeet Thayil and Sridala Swami at the Hyderabad Central University on Saturday.
This month’s Literary Review of “The Hindu’ had a review of ’60 Indian Poets’, an anthology of poetry edited by Jeet Thayil. The reviewer mentioned many names in the anthology but seems to have left out Srinivas Rayaprol and Sridala Swami, both Hyderabad based poets. I had heard of Rayaprol but haven’t read his poems. (One reason why he was not so well known was that he was from Secunderabad.) But when I heard them read out at the reading on Saturday I realized how good a poet he was. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that he was a Chief Engineer with the AP Government which goes to show that not all who work for the Government are dull.
The reading was at Hyderabad Central University, which is quite far away from the city, and I was surprised to see that there were more than a hundred people gathered for the event. It was a wonderful an hour and half I spent in that sylvan campus listening to the poetry of Jeet Thayil. Both the poets, Thayil and Sridala Swami read Rayaprol’s poetry in the way only poets can read out another poet’s work. It was pure pleasure listening to the poems and the audience was very appreciative. In the audience were big names like Meenakshi Mukherjee, Sachidananda Mohanty, Sudhakar Marathe and also Shankar Melkote.
There was an announcement of some kind of a prize for upcoming poets beginning next year. I hope it generates a good response like the reading.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It was bigger than anything I’ve seen before with acres and acres of space as far as the eye could see. But for all that space there weren’t enough books filling it up. The shelves came up to shoulder level which gave the store a sense of even more space but they had nothing much different from what one could find at other stores. To be fair, all bookstores more or less stock the same titles but this seemed to have even fewer titles than a normal bookstore. I was disappointed with the choice on display. I couldn’t find a single Elmore Leonard title. Just Books and even Crossword have his titles. Too bad Odyssey failed my Elmore Leonard test.
But there was one book that made up for all the disappointment. Till date I haven’t seen a book on fountain pens in any store either in Hyderabad or anywhere in the other cities I’ve been. But last year I had found one in the Book Fair but in a stall selling second hand books. The book was Cartier’s coffee table book on fountain pens titled ‘Art of Writing’. When I looked at the price on the back I was glad. It was Rs 2700/- whereas I had picked up the same book (with a thin cardboard case) for Rs 350. There’s the sticker on the book in the picture. I had got the book for nearly one eighth’s of its regular price. Such are the joys of second hand book hunts.
There’s a Café Coffee Day outlet inside the new Odyssey bookstore, but without a separate enclosure it looks odd. ‘Brio’ at Crossword is really nice because it is separated from the store quite subtly. I hope they do something about it. If not CCD, then I was impressed by the range of fountain pens in the stationery store one floor down. There were Waterman and other brands. But since I don’t buy any fountain pen that doesn’t cost me a lakh rupees I did not find any to suit my range. I exited with neither book nor fountain pen in hand. Some day I will visit the store again. But I really wonder how many bookstores Hyderabad's got?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The first find was a book I had missed buying in the past. It was Groucho Marx’s ‘Groucho and Me’, supposed to be his autobiography. I have only read about how funny the Marx brothers are but haven’t read any of their writings. This appeared very funny though from what little I read from the yellowing pages. I got the ancient looking smallish book for twenty rupees.
The other find was Isabel Allende’s ‘Portrait in Sepia.’ Allende is another writer I had heard a lot about and I had in fact seen some of her books at Abids but did not buy them. This Sunday I somehow picked up her book hoping it would be a good read because somewhere inside it was stated that she was one of the world’s bestselling writers. Also, there was a poem from Pablo Neruda’s ‘End of the World’, in the beginning:
And that’s why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.
I got the book which was in a fairly good condition for only twenty rupees. With these two books in hand I sat in the Grand and had bun-maska with tea. That was how this Sunday’s foray into Abids ended.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
It is exactly two weeks since the last issue of 'Literary Review' and I have already read through it end to end quite a number of times. I am already looking forward to the next month's because what with the Booker going to someone from India, there will be really a lot to read about Indian writing and so on. A lot of people will hold forth on the writing scene in India, which in my opinion, is just unfolding. There's a lot to come, apart from my book, which, I am beginning to think only two people would get to read if I don't begin the revision soon enough.
In the current issue of 'Literary Review' there wasn't much that was interesting. There was a sort of write-up-cum- interview with Anita Desai. Apart from it, the only interesting article in it was by Vijay Nair about literary collaborations between famous writers. If I were to choose a writer to be my mentor then I guess I would go for Pico Iyer because I really like his writing. His observations and analysis are brilliant. I'd give anything to be told something about writing by him. But then, he lives in Japan which makes it quite impossible.
Another interesting mentor-pupil combination was the one between John Gardner and Raymond Carver. I have this habit of jotting down random bits of trivia, titles of books others recommend in their articles, on the back of my notebook. While flipping through an old notebook I read that I had written down the title of Raymond Carver's 'Fires' which I had read about in the 'Endpaper' column in the March issue of 'Literary Review.' I took it out once again and read the column. I had found 'Fires' sometime last month at Abids. Raymond Carver himself was a mentor for another writer- Jim McInerney.
All this makes me impatient for the next month's issue of 'Literary Review,' that will be out only on the second of November. Till then I have to make do with rereading the old issues which isn't such a bad idea.
Friday, October 17, 2008
In crazy moments I get the idea that the real purpose behind the mission to the moon our space scientists are planning is not to study the moon, but to see if they can actually spot the potholes on our roads from up there. But if it isn’t their purpose, I really hope they include it as part of their mission. I'll bet we can spot the potholes on Hyderabad roads from the moon and I will also bet we can do so without using telescopes or such things.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Sometime soon I am going to drop in at ‘Odyssey’ at Jubilee Hills and check the store out leisurely. I also heard that Crossword is going to have an outlet at the new mall- GVK One- coming up on the Banjara Hills Road. Crossword already has three or four stores in Hyderabad. Odyssey has around four stores. Askhara has four branches here. The city is literally filling up with bookstores. But I wish Landmark and Oxford had branches in Hyderabad. More and more bookstores in Hyderabad means only one thing- Hyderabadis are beginning to take reading quite seriously.
Within walking distance from my office, right behind the SBI’s Gunfoundry office, there’s a new bookstore that opened recently- Central Book Store. It was earlier a wholesale book distributors' but now they’ve moved into retail. It isn’t really a bookstore but it has enough titles of fiction and non-fiction stacked up to be called a bookstore. There’s more stationery there than books but I don’t really mind. I picked up a simple and elegant notebook of Seagull brand the other day. It was quite good looking and was also affordable, priced under thirty rupees.
I am happy there are many new bookstores and also second hand bookstores in Hyderabad. Hyderabadis seem to be reading books but not many seem to be writing any. I am not exactly happy with the writing scene here. There are hardly any well known writers Hyderabad has thrown up. Narendra Luther is one but very few outside Hyderabad know him. The only other published writers I know are Srivatsan and Hari, my friend. Sometimes it is disappointing that there aren’t more than half a dozen published writers in Hyderabad.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Perhaps it was the changing weather or all the outside food I had during the past week, my health seemed to have taken a beating during the past couple of days. As if that was not enough, my sinus allergy too kicked in. And when my sinus allergy kicks in I don’t step out, for reasons of public safety. I get massive sneezing spells that would rock the foundations of buildings so I stayed put at home. It was so bad I had to miss a book reading on Saturday. But on Sunday I couldn’t hold myself back from visiting Abids. It turned out to be a good decision because the foray yielded two good finds.
Bill Bryson is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read, of course, after Dave Barry. So when I spotted one of his best books ‘The Lost Continent’ I picked it up. It was only ten rupees so I had no choice but to buy it even though I already have a copy at home. It begins with his classic line-‘ I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.’ The whole book is peppered with such great oneliners. Though the cover was a bit damaged, on the whole it was a good, readable copy. Someone just got lucky.
Later I went to the Grand Hotel near GPO for a cup of Irani tea. I spent the whole time watching the guy at the counter slice round buns into half. There were about fifty buns on the counter and a plate filled with a mountain of butter. The guy proceeded to butter the slices expertly with a long steel knife. I was tempted to try one but I was already half way through my cup of tea. There appeared to be a large demand of the stuff at Grand because there were more buns in the counters than I could count. After finishing my tea I went to the seller beside GPO and found my second book.
I had found Natalie Goldberg’s oft recommended book on writing- 'Writing Down the Bones,' sometime last year at a sale. Recently I had read about her other book- 'Wild Mind.' It was this book I found on Sunday. I had to shell out fifty rupees for the book which had a torn cover but since it was a book on writing I couldn’t let it go. Someday I hope to read both her books on writing and learn something.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Yesterday evening, my brother, the hot-shot corporate honcho, informed he was requisitioning me for chauffeur duties early Monday morning. I couldn’t refuse because a) he is my elder brother and b) he drives a Honda City. I am terribly glad he works for the sort of company that can afford to give its Directors the latest Honda City cars. Not many people drive to Irani restaurants in a Honda City, but today morning I was one such customer. After dropping my brother near Keyes School I decided to have an Irani chai at Blue Sea.
At half past six after I parked the car I eagerly bounded out and walked to a newspaper vendor to pick up the day’s papers to read leisurely while sipping the Irani chai. I ordered the ‘Golden’ version, which is sort of milky tea and settled down. No sooner than the tea was placed before me I began to have anxious thoughts wondering whether I had remembered to put the parking brake on or not. Between nervous sips of the tea and hurried glances at the headlines I also looked out of the hotel to see if a driverless blue Honda City rolls past the hotel.
The road from Mother Teresa statue inclines downwards towards the Oliphant Bridge. Blue Sea is on this road where I parked the car to a side. Happily though, nothing of that sort happened. The car was exactly where I had parked it. Back inside the car I noticed that not only had I put on the parking brake, I had also put the car in gear before switching off the engine. If I could, I’d have put a rock or brick under the tyres but I couldn’t find any. But that would have been going too far even for a Hyderabadi. But then, it isn’t my car.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
One reason why I am always picking up books is that I keep coming across references to books and authors I have not read. I rarely go by book reviews to help me choose my books but when I come across writers themselves who swear by books of other writers I buy them or keep looking for books by those writers. I discovered Elmore Leonard more or less in this manner after I read Stephen King wax lyrical about him is his book ‘On Writing.’ Last Sunday I found a reference to Derek Marlowe, a writer I had not heard of before.
Of the thirty writers featured in ‘London Walks’ that I had picked up last Sunday, I had read about or heard about only a few which goes to show how little I know about good writers. Margaret Drabble was a name I could recognize instantly and Philip Zeigler was another writer who appeared faintly familiar. But the rest of them were virtually unknown to me - Janet Street Porter, Graham Norton, Lucinda Lambton, Dan Cruickshank, Jon Ronson, Robin James, Kim Newman, Dr. Ruth Richardson, William Forrester, Robin Hunt, Margaret Forster, Peter Paphides, Kate Kellaway, James Miller, Pratibha Parmar, Ben Richards, John Vidal, Darcus Howe, Rick Jones, Yvonne Roberts, Liz Jensen, Martin Rowson, Thomas Pakenham, Dan Fielder, Irma Krutz, Joan Smith and Nicholas Royle are the rest of the names.
In fact I first read about Derek Marlowe in Nicholas Royle’s engaging essay ‘Do You Remember Derek Marlowe?’ in ‘London Walks.’ The essay is a delightful piece of writing describing the walk he undertook covering all the places where Marlowe lived in London. Royle drops a book of Marlowe at each of the addresses, a strange way of paying homage. He also writes about half a dozen second hand bookstores on this route- Books & Comic Exchange, Books for Cooks, Maggs Bros, Travel Bookshop etc.
Nicholas Royle, himself an author of five novels and more than a hundred short stories, described Marlowe as a’ classic prose stylist’, and as one whose books are now out of print. Derek Marlowe has written nine books and is also a script writer. Some of the well known books written by Derek Marlow include ‘A Dandy in Aspic’, ‘Do You Remember England’ and ‘Echoes of Celendine’ among others like ‘The Memoirs of a Venus Lackey’, ‘A Single Summer with LB’, ‘Somebody’s Sister’, ‘Nightshade’, ‘The Rich Boy from Chicago’ and ‘Nancy Astor’ which I remember seeing somewhere.
The next time I am out on my second hand book hunts it is Derek Marlowe that will be uppermost on my mind.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Also, around this time, the family leaves me to my fate and goes away to my in-laws. So I am practically left alone to fend for myself. But I enjoy this solitude as it is an opportunity to do whatever I want to do which is, read and write. The house is empty, the television is mine and I can go out and come in whenever I want to. (not that I cannot do all these if my family is there) I am the only one in the house so it gets a bit lonely sometimes. I miss my kid’s constant questioning and my better half’s hustle and bustle. A day without them is okay but not three or four days. But that is how long I have to be alone.
I use the loneliness to think and retrospect. But with the revision of the manuscript weighing on my mind I haven’t found time to think much or retrospect, either. I am wondering whether to take part in the Nano this year or not. I still have half of the novel I had begun last year to complete. If I finish it I would have another book written, my second one. That is a comforting thought, a second book ready to be shown to anyone who bothers to ask. NaNo is another three weeks away and I have time until then to decide.
Also, this enforced loneliness gives me the chance to eat wherever I want. I have breakfast one day at one place, lunch at another place and dinner elsewhere. Of course, my brother asks me to come home to eat but I give vague excuses to eat out. After a couple of times eating out it begins to get boring, and I long for some home cooked food however badly cooked. I long for my family to come back. An enforced solitude like this is enough to remind everyone how important the family is to keep body and soul together.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
A couple of years before the second hand book market in Delhi’s Darya Ganj disappeared altogether, I happened to be there on a book hunt. I was in Delhi on a short visit and had decided to check out the books there. I found a book by one of my favorite authors- Len Deighton, one that wasn’t the type of book that he has become famous for. It was a non-fiction title on London- ‘London Dossier.’
‘London Dossier’ is about all there is to see, experience and eat in London. The book was written several years ago but is well written with the eye of a writer who misses no detail. I got the book for thirty or forty bucks back then. Along with Sunday’s find of ‘London Walks’ I’m pretty much update with London. Now only going there remains.
As it was still festival shopping time, all the regular shops were open leaving only a few booksellers to display their stuff. I had met a friend who found an original edition of Orhan Pamuk’s ‘My Name is Red’, for ninety rupees. It was a good find and I hope to read it after he finishes reading it.
Later I stopped at the booksellers at Chikkadpally and my eyes caught a name- Michael Ridpath, which appeared familiar. I had not come across that name earlier but somehow I felt I should pick up the book which was ‘Trading Reality’. On the back page, Daily Telegraph describes the book as ‘Gripping.’ I got the book for twenty five rupees only which was quite cheap considering the book was in a good condition with more than four hundred and fifty pages.
That was the Sunday haul of two books. Soon I’ll post about ‘London Walks’ which appears quite interesting.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
1. Pack it all up in a card board box and tuck it out of sight forever.
2. Take a deep breath and plunge right in, persisting until I come to the end.
For a long time I was convinced that the first choice was the best thing to do but being the sort of Hyderabadi who doesn’t give up so easily, I have opted for the latter course of action, though, with a bit of trepidation. Seven hundred pages of manuscript to revise is enough to give the jitters to even the most hardened of editors not to mention first time authors like me. But since it is my own book I have to do it myself. It doesn’t appear to be a pleasant task though.
Sometime last week I finished reading the entire manuscript once and I feel it is one big piece of nonsense that I have managed to write over these three years. All the lines that I thought were funny, all those scenes filled with significance and deep meaning now sound pathetic. I feel I have made a mistake, a gigantic one, thinking I have it in me to write a novel, no less. I am wondering what to do next. More importantly, I don’t know how to do it and have no idea other than cutting all those scenes that don’t work. There is a lot of work ahead and I think my deadline of finishing the revision and coming up with a readable draft by the end of the year seems too unrealistic. I guess I need another year before I can allow anyone to lay their hands on the draft.
Sometime next week I am going to begin the revision and I already feel the jitters inside. I’ll keep doing posts on the progress of my novel as and when I reach milestones. Another idea that I have is how it would be if I put a few pages of my novel here on the blog for every one to read and give feedback. But I am scared to do it for fear that everyone will die laughing after reading the first few lines and never return to the blog again.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Of the several unforgettable scenes I witnessed at the Andamans one I remember very well, and that is because I was not able to photograph it. I had a camera with me but that was one time I wished I had a better camera. I was not able to take a picture of the scene that I did not expect to see again in my lifetime. That was what I thought until I made my monthly trip to Necklace Road early this Sunday morning.
While in the Andamans I had signed up for a tour of Baratang to take a look at the mud volcano and the limestone caves there. The bus was supposed to start at five in the morning. I was waiting for the bus at Teal House in Port Blair. I wandered to the back of Teal House and was rewarded with a scene that was wonderful and majestic. The sun rises quite early in the Andamans and at half past four the day was just beginning to dawn. The sea was glassy smooth and perfectly still. The cloud streaked blue sky reflected in that glassiness so perfect that I stood awed for some time. I didn’t notice the bus drive up. I had no time to take a picture and that remained a regret.
Last Sunday I witnessed a similar scene on the Necklace Road. The waters of Hussain Sagar were so still, calm and like a mirror, reflected the blue sky. This time I had a camera with me and I was able to photograph the scene. I hope I was able to capture some of the magic of that morning.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Temptation comes in many forms. To me it comes in the form of books. Even when the wallet is near empty I cannot resist picking up a good title whenever I come across one. And when it happens to be a book by a writer like Haruki Murakami then all resistance crumbles, instantly. That’s what happened to me on Sunday when I found ‘Kafka On The Shore’ at Abids.
I had thought that with festivals drawing closer the shoppers would be crowding the regular shops in Abids, there wouldn’t be many second hand booksellers. I would just make the rounds just to satisfy myself, I thought as I set out for Abids. But I was wrong. Some of the booksellers found places where they could arrange a few books for display. It was with one such bookseller that I found my third Haruki Murakami.
A friend was recommending ‘Kafka On The Shore’ very highly so I did not want to let go of it when I saw it. I have almost finished ‘Blind Willow Sleeping Woman’, my first Murakami book I found at Abids about a year ago. Sometime back I had found ‘Hardboiled Wonderland End of the World’ at a second hand bookstore. I found my third Haruki Murakami even before I could finish reading the other two. But I picked it up anyway even though I had to shell out a hundred rupees for it, which for a book of 600 plus pages is quite reasonable.
That was the only book in this Sunday’s haul and it turned out to be quite a haul.