Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 3- 2012 READING

This is post 3 of 3 posts.

In 2012 I had read less than sixty books, almost all of them extremely good barring a few. This year, somehow I managed to read sixty three books, all of them, save a couple of them, good to the last word. The books I read in the final weeks of the year, particularly the two books by Balraj Khanna, 'Who Let the Dork Out' by Sidin Vadukut that I will review in a future post, I found to be very enjoyable. Balraj Khanna was a serendipitous discovery like many of my earlier discoveries. I am glad I found them on my own without anyone’s help.

1. The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson
2. Playback - Raymond Chandler
3. Write It Down Make it Happen- Henriette Klause
4. The Summing Up - Somerset Maugham
5. Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys - Dave Barry
6. Everybody Loves a Good Drought - P.Sainath
7. You Can Write a Novel - James V. Smith Jr.
8. Almost French - Sarah Turnbull
9. Ice Boys in Bell Bottoms - Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
10. The Humour and the Pity - Amitava Kumar
11. Anatomy of Restlessness - Bruce Chatwin
12. Widow’s Walk - Robert B. Parker
13. True Crime - Jake Arnott
14. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush - Eric Newby
15. Anatomy of an Illness - Norman Cousins
16. Balsamic Dreams - Joe Queenan
17. Pastime - Robert B. Parker
18. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead - Dave Barry
19. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
20. The Man Within - Graham Greene
21. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
22. Visiting Mrs. Nabokov - Martin Amis
23. Lucknow Boy - Vinod Mehta
24. The Healing Heart - Norman Cousins
25. Collected Essays - Graham Greene

26. Dancing in Cambodia - Amitav Ghosh
27. The Gathering - Anne Enright
28. Mandingo - Kyle Onstott
29. In Light of India - Octavio Paz
30. The Story Teller - Maria Vargas Llosa
31. In Praise of Older Women - Stephen Viznecy
32. Double Deuce - Robert B. Parker
33. The Checklist Manifesto - Atul Gawande
34. Close Range - Annie Proulx
35. Best American Travel Writing Ed Frances Mayes
36. Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
37. Long Quiet Highway - Natalie Goldberg
38. At Random - Bennett Cerf
39. Birth Marks - Sarah Dunant
40. Sharky’s Machine - William Diehl
41. Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion
42. Travels - Michael Crichton
43. The Leopard - Jo Nesbo
44. The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
45. It All Adds Up - Saul Bellow
46. 84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
47. Literary Journalism
48. The Screenwriter Within - DB Gilles
49. God Save the Child - Robert B. Parker
50. Stephen Fry in America - Stephen Fry

51. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
52. The Human Element and Other Stories - Somerset Maugham
53. Stet - Diana Athill
54. How to Enjoy Writing - Janet and Isaac Asimov
55. Bad Business - Robert B. Parker
56. On Writing - George V. Higgins
57. Best Food Writing 2007 - Ed. Holly Hughes
58. Monkey Grip - Helen Garner
59. Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
60. Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need - Dave Barry
61. Who Let the Dork Out - Sidin Vadukut
62. Nation of Fools - Balraj Khanna
63. Sweet Chillies - Balraj Khanna
64. Particularly Cats- Doris Lessing

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 2- 2012 Haul of Books

This is post 2 of 3 posts

In 2011, I had picked up a total of around 105 books which was less than what I had found the years before. This year i.e., 2012 I picked up 92 books in all. Most of the books I had picked up at the second hand bazaar at Abids on Sundays and some from sales by bookstores, at the book fair and some of them at second hand book stores. A few of the books I got as gifts from friends and family. Some of the books are extra copies of the titles that I already have like those by Dave Barry, John Le Carre, Len Deighton, and Elmore Leonard that I bought simply because I couldn’t resist them. I bought them to give to my friends who might enjoy reading these authors.

1. Jonathan Kaplan- The Dressing Station
2. Joan Didion- Play As It Lays
3. Somerset Maugham- The Summing Up
4. Frances Mayes, Ed- Best American Travel Writing
5. Harry Dolan- Bad Things Happen
6. Edward Abbey- Desert Solitaire
7. Natalie Goldberg- Writing Down the Bones
8. Gulzar- Raavi Paar
9. Robert B. Parker- Cold Service
10. Robert B. Parker- Pastime
11. Robert B. Parker- Double Deuce
12. Ashokamitran- The Eighteenth Parallel
13. Jake Arnott- True Crime
14. Phil Dusenberg- Then We Set His Hair on Fire
15. Richard Marius- The Coming of Rain
16. Amitava Kumar- The Humour and the Pity
17. Shashi Tharoor- India: Midnight to Millenium
18. Amartya Sen- The Argumentative Indian
19. Eric Newby- A Short Walk in the Hindukush
20. Sarah Dunant- Birthmarks
21. Somerset Maugham- Mrs. Craddock
22. Robert B. Parker- God Save the Child
23. Robert B. Parker- Chance
24. The Screenwriter Within- D.B. Gilles
25. Harper Lee- To Kill a Mockingbird
26. Martin Amis- Visiting Mrs. Nabokov
27. Pico Iyer- Tropical Classical
28. Mary McCarthy- The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed
29. Octavio Paz- In Light of India
30. Richard Dawkins- A Devil’s Chaplain
31. Atul Gawande- The Checklist Manifesto
32. Maria Vargos Llosa- The Story Teller
33. Stephen Vizinczey- In Praise of Older Women
34. P.Sainath- Everybody Loves a Good Drought
35. Jeffrey Archer- Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
36. MT Vasudevan Nair- Catching an Elephant
37. Elizabeth Gilbert- Eat, Pray, Love
38. Woody Allen- Without Feathers
39. Bill Bryson- Down Under
40. David Foster Wallace- The Broom of the System
41. Len Deighton- To Catch a Falling Spy
42. George Orwell- Nineteen Eighty Four
43. Len Deighton- Yesterday’s Spy
44. Jan Morris- Sydney
45. William Diehl- Sharky’s Machine
46. Nirad C.Chaudhri- Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
47. Somerset Maugham- The Razor’s Edge
48. Gotham Writers Workshop- Writing Movies
49. Diana Athill- Stet
50. Edgar Cayce- Secrets of the Universe
51. Saadat Hasan Manto- Black Margins
52. Somerset Maugham- Ten Authors and Their Novels
53. Helen Garner- Monkey Grip
54. Ruskin Bond- Scenes from a Writer’s Life
55. Manohar Malgonkar- A Bend in the Ganges
56. UR Anantamurthy- Samskara
57. John Le Carre- The Honorable Schoolboy
58. John Le Carre- Smiley’s People
59. John Le Carre- A Perfect Spy
60. Elmore Leonard- Freaky Deaky
61. Dave Eggers- A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius
62. Haruki Murakami- Norwegian Wood
63. Elizabeth Ryan- How to Be a Better Writer
64. Somerset Maugham- The Human Element and Other Stories
65. VS Naipaul- The Overcrowded Barracoon
66. Dorothea Brande- Becoming a Writer
67. Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni- Sister of My Heart
68. Clive James- Flying Visits
69. Daniyal Mueenuddin- In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
70. Doris Lessing- Particularly Cats
71. Best Food Writing 2007
72. Balraj Khanna- Nation of Fools
73. Balraj Khanna- Sweet Chillies
74. Robert B. Parker- Promised Land
75. Stephen King- On Writing
76. George V.Higgins- On Writing
77. Saadat Hasan Manto- Kingdom’s End and Other Stories
78. Victor Frankl- Man’s Search for Meaning
79. Sidin Vadukut- Who Let the Dork Out
80. Dave Barry- Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need
81. Brian Keenan- An Evil Cradling
82. Roberto Bolano- The Savage Detectives
83. Len Deighton- The Ipcress File
84. RL Stevenson- Treasure Island
85. Cormac McCarthy- No Country for Old Men
86. Robert B.Parker- The Professional
87. Jorge Louis Borges- Doctor Brodie’s Report
88. Raymond Chandler- Farewell, My Lovely
89. Dave Barry- Dave Barry’s Money Secrets
90. Martin Amis- Experience
91. Homer- Odyssey
92. Chaman Nahal- Azadi

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 1. The Year-end Haul

Post 1 of 3

In the ten days that the Book Fair was held I had been there a total of five times and picked up six books. There was one book I hadn’t picked right away and left it for my final visit. On the last day of the book fair I made my sixth and final visit to the book fair that was crowded with people as it was the last day. Right after entering the fair I made my way to the second hand bookstalls and much later I realized that I had not been to any other book stall except the ones selling second hand books. There were more than dozen second hand book stall in this year’s fair with a majority of them from Hyderabad.

Anyway, it was Chaman Nahal’s ‘Azadi’ that I had come to pick up and leave immediately after. However, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the books again in almost all the second hand book stalls. I saw three Dave Barry titles but I did not buy them. There were almost four Elmore Leonard titles and more than half a dozen ‘Spenser’ titles but these too I did not buy. But I saw a title that I had come across and had not bought then which left me with a lot of regret. Back in 2009 or so I had seen Martin Amis’ ‘Experience’ in a second hand book store but decided I would buy it later. But on my next visit I found that the book had been sold. So when I saw it again I grabbed it especially since it was for ninety five rupees only.

Afterwards I went to the stall where I had seen almost half a dozen copies of ‘Azadi’ by Chaman Nahal and got a pleasant surprise. When I first saw it the label on the back had Rs 75 written on it but being the last day of the sale it was for sale for Rs 50 only. It was a brand new copy and the original price of the book was Rs 250 whereas I got it for one fifth of the original price. After picking up this book I came across Michael Herr’s ‘Dispatches’ but I did not buy it. This year many of the second hand book stall had a peculiar offer. They were offering two books for Rs 50 or four books for Rs 100. If you wanted one book then you had to pay the full price of the offer. ‘Dispatches’ was among books under such an offer. I couldn’t find any other book to buy along with it so I left it. I had seen the title elsewhere and I am confident I will find it soon.

This was one book fair where I bought books for which I did not have to pay more than a hundred rupees. Four out of the six books I bought cost me around fifty rupees, the fifth book was for sixty rupees and only ‘Experience’ came for hundred rupees. In the previous year’s sale I had to shell out hundred and fifty rupees for each book. I had thought that this year the prices would be even more but surprisingly the prices were even lesser than before. For three hundred and fifty five rupees I bought six great books which made me happier than anything else this year.

On Sunday I found a good copy of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ that I got for only thirty rupees. I want to begin reading some of the old classics now and so bought this book. Luckily the seller told me I could pay anything I wanted for the book so I paid him thirty rupees which I now feel was very less. Next time I will pay him more for anything I pick up from him. Next Sunday I do not plan to buy anything since I have already bought ninety three books so far during 2012. In another post I have given the list of books I have picked up this year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Triple Post - III: The Sunrise Effect

In Hyderabad there are very few scenic spots that one feels like coming to often. One such spot is the Necklace Road skirting the Hussain Sagar Lake. It offers a nice view of the vast lake and is a favorite spot. However, it is overcrowded in the evenings with families, couples and other people who litter the place with trash. The only time to enjoy the lakefront spot is early in the morning when it is quiet and uncrowded. The best thing to do there is to sit still and watch the sunrise in complete tranquility. It is one thing I have been doing quite regularly since the past few years but of late I have missed going there due to work. My last visit to Necklace Road to watch the sunrise was sometime in March this year. The Sunday before last Sunday I decided I’d go and enjoy the solitude of the dawn but it wasn’t to be so.

Usually, so early in the morning there won’t be a soul around on Necklace Road save for an occasional person out walking or exercising which wouldn’t distract me or break the spell. But on the Sunday morning I went there were many people around even before the sun had risen. There was a group of four young men and a girl hanging around a metal and wooden platform on the edge of the lake. From the cameras they carried it was obvious they too had come to catch the sunrise. But instead of soaking in the silence they chattered endlessly which was quite irritating. I waited until the sun rose, took a few snaps and left for the second leg of the morning’s outing.

At Adarsh I settled down with the Sunday papers and here too there was a crowd of eight young men who came on bikes. They sat at two tables and talked loudly, breaking into guffaws and teasing one another. No amount of social networking on the internet would build friendships like these built on such gathering of friends at cafes, lakefronts at odd times.

Friday Triple Post -II: The Book Fair Haul

After waiting for nearly two weeks, that is, since the day I read about the dates of the 27th Hyderabad Book Fair there was no way I could not stop myself from being present at the gates of the Book Fair on the first day. Despite a very busy schedule I managed to squeeze in half hour to take a quick look at the stalls. As usual, though the Book Fair was inaugurated more than half the total stalls were yet to be opened. Luckily for me there were two second hand bookstores open- one was Prateek Book Store from Pune I guess and another from Thane of which I do not recollect the name. In that half hour of hurried browsing I managed to find two good books and surprisingly got them very, very cheap. I had expected the prices in this year’s book fair to be very high but it wasn’t so.

The first book I spotted was Robert B. Parker’s ‘The Professional’ that seemed a brand new copy by Berkeley. It was a title I did not possess so I grabbed it without any second thoughts. I had come prepared to pay more than what I usually pay for second hand books but I was pleasantly surprised when the stall person said the book was for just fifty rupees! On the cover it said ‘First time in Paperback’ so I guess I was lucky to find it. I felt it was a good start to my book fair hunt. The next find was an ever better book.

My first ever Jorge Louis Borges book was ‘Borges on Writing’ that I found long back at Abids though it wasn’t a book by Borges. The second find was ‘Labyrinths’ that I found sometime back. Last Friday at the book fair I found my third JLB title. It wasn’t a novel but a collection of short stories titled ‘Doctor Brodie’s Report’ that was a slim book of little more than a hundred pages, 102 pages to be exact. Surprisingly, I got this book also very cheap. I paid only fifty rupees for this book that had eleven short stories – The Gospel According to Mark, The Unworthy Friend, The Duel, The End of the Duel, Rosendo’s Tale, The Intruder, The Meeting, Juan Murana, The Elder Lady, Guayaquil, and Doctor’s Brodie’s Report.

A pleasant surprise at the Book Fair was a stall devoted entirely to pens. There was a stall of ‘Emonte’ pens that displayed some rather solidly good looking ball point, roller and fountain pens. The pens appeared good both in looks as well as functionality. However, the pens were priced quite high though there were a few pens that were affordable. Some of the pens were Diva, Bliss, Sarkozy and so on. I got hold of a catalogue and promised to buy at least on the next visit I planned to make just a couple of days later, it not the next day.

My next visit to the Book Fair came sooner than expected. I was there on Tuesday again. On the first day of the fair there weren’t many of the second book stalls open yet so I was eager to check those out first. As it happened the second hand books stalls were the only ones I checked out in the hour and half I was in the Book Fair. There was one open that I had not checked on the first day so I went in. I think it was the stall of the ‘Unique Book Center’ Nampally guys where I found a Chandler title. Strangely enough, last year too at the Book Fair I had found a Raymond Chandler title- ‘Playback’ and this year it was ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ that I found on top of a shelf. I just spotted the name ‘Chandler’ on the spine and took it out. I was thrilled with the find and even more thrilled to see the price on the label- Rs 60 ! Now I have four Chandler titles- The Simple Art of Murder, Playback, The High Window and Farewell, My Lovely. But it is ‘The Big Sleep’ that I am looking for and hope to find it soon.

I was still high on that Chandler find when I came across my second find of the day at another second hand book stall. I was just leaving the stall when I spotted ‘Dave Barry’s Money Secrets’ which is one of the few Dave Barry titles that I do not possess. I grabbed and showed it to the seller to find out how much the book cost. I had found the book in a rack of books selling for Rs 50 but I thought this book would be priced higher. I was wrong since the guy said ‘Rs 50’ which wasn’t one tenth of the original price of the book. It was a hardcover copy with the jacket intact and I couldn’t believe I had found four good books at the Book Fair. What was amazing was that all the four books I bought did not cost me more than sixty rupees. It was unbelievable since the previous year none of the book I had bought came for less than hundred rupees.

I am planning another visit on Thursday because I planned to pick up another book I saw but did not buy. In Diana Athill’s ‘Stet’ she suggests a list of books that one ought to buy if one comes across them in second hand bookshops, and one title in that list was ‘Azadi’ by Chaman Nahal which she described as ‘ A Superb novel about a Hindu family’s experience of the partitioning of India, which ought to be recognized as a classic.’ Fortunately, the stall where I saw this title had more at least three few copies which was one reason I did not buy the book right away. Still, I am feeling apprehensive whether I’d find the book on my next visit.

Friday Triple Post:-I: Trip No. 8

Out of the seven trips I made this year so far, five were official and two were personal - one to Goa and the second to Tirupati. The rest were related to work. Of the five official trips four were to Delhi and only one was to Tirupati. Last Tuesday I made another official trip, possibly my last trip of the year, and this too was to Delhi. Like the rest of the official trips this too was a very short one. I went in the morning and returned in the night.

I had thought this trip to Delhi would be like all the five trips I had made earlier but it turned out not to be so. There were a couple of minor events that made the trip slightly different. Normally my car arrives well before the time I leave for the airport whatever time it is. While I was getting ready on Tuesday morning I was thinking how wonderful that I have a driver who comes so early in the morning to ferry me. When it was five and the car had not yet arrived I called the driver who told me he had just woken up. I had told him we’d leave at five so I’d be at the airport an hour before the plane departed at 6-40. Naturally I had a short spell of panic before I calmed down and went out. Luckily I found an autorickshaw and went in search of a cab. For a while it looked like I might have to go all the way upto the airport in Shamshabad in the autorickshaw itself but once again luck intervened and I found a cab at Red Hills at half past five. Inside the driver was asleep but after I knocked on the window he woke up, opened the door, put my bags in, started the car and took off without even yawning once. He assured me he would take me to the airport in just thirty minutes. At exactly fifty eight minutes past five I reached the airport. Luckily again, the check in counters were not crowded and I was able to board quickly.

I was carrying with me ‘Nation of Fools’ that I had bought at Abids on Sunday. I planned to read the book during the two hour flight and maybe finish more than half the book by the end of the trip. Getting in I saw books in other people’s hands. Someone in the Executive Class had Gurcharan Das’s ‘Indian Grows at Night’ and I saw another person deeply engrossed in ‘If God Was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramaniam. I settled in my seat, a window one, and began the book even before the plane took off. The person beside me, a person in his midfifties, started doing the word jumble in the airline mag. After breakfast I noticed he was struggling with two words. I knew what the words were but did not want to tell him and kept reading my book. Some people do not like to be told the solutions since they want to do it by themselves so I kept quiet though I was becoming increasingly impatient. I was bursting to tell him the answers. But when I saw that he had not yet completed it even after two hours I couldn’t restrain myself. I leaned over and told him the words that would complete the jumble. He smiled and got talking with me. He turned out to be a senior scientist at IICT.

If there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it is cold weather. My brother had advised me to wear thermals, a sweater and also a jacket on the trip since it was quite cold in Delhi. It was not only cold, it was cloudy with a slight drizzle, exactly the sort of weather I do not like. Luckily, it did not rain until the afternoon. By eleven in the morning I had finished my work at an office conveniently located close to Janpath. I walked around watching the cool Delhi crowd going about until I felt hungry enough to have a second breakfast. I had 'kal dosai' at Saravana Bhavan and a cup of filter coffee before I set out for another spell of Hyderabadi style gawking. Minutes after I got into a cab for CR Park, where my brother lives, it began to drizzle.

After a good lunch at my brother’s home I played caroms with my nephews, talked with my mother and left in the drizzle for the airport. I got there a bit early so I went around T-3, had a cup of expensive airport coffee and finally checked in. The only unusual thing about the ride back to Hyderabad was that a gentleman in the back of the plane began to sing so loudly I am sure the pilots must have heard him. Surprisingly no one seemed to mind it but I sure was distracted. I thought he’d shut up after the dinner was served but he began to sing in a louder voice but mercifully shut up soon after delivering another song. After the chilly weather in Delhi I was glad to be back in warm Hyderabad.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sunday Haul

The last time I saw it I did not buy it. The excuse I gave to myself was that since I had already watched the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’ I needn’t buy the book. On hindsight it was another of those decisions which I later decided can only be called as absolutely stupid. That Sunday and the rest of the weeks until last Sunday I felt horrible for missing buying Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country for Old Men’ . But since I am very lucky when it comes to books it turned up again at Abids last Sunday. This time I did not think twice about buying it but only after a brief bargain which I have learnt to do more out of habit than anything. The result was that I got the book for just seventy five rupees. The find put me in a good frame of mind despite the fact that I had to go to office later in the day.
I was glad I had bought the book because of the fantastic reviews I read on the back cover and the inside pages. One particular review in ‘Scotland on Sunday’ said ‘Even the spare best of Elmore Leonard would have trouble beating this neo-Western in a foot race…’ This alone is making me restless to begin reading the book right away. However, since I have four books that I have to finish reading before I begin a new book I plan to begin reading it as soon as I finish them. I also plan to keep an eye out for his other books especially ‘Suttree’ and ‘Blood Meridian’ that I am sure I will find it at Abids someday soon.
The previous Sunday I had decided not to buy the copy of Balraj Khanna’s ‘Nation of Fools’ that wasn’t the original Penguin edition. The copy I had seen was by Tara Press published in 2004 and it did not appeal to me. But I had also decided that I would buy the book if I found it at Abids the next Sunday. So last Sunday I saw the book again and bought it. I already have Balraj Khanna’s second book ‘Sweet Chillies’ that I want desperately want to read after I read a few paragraphs in it. But I will read it after I read ‘Nation of Fools’ first. BOOK FAIR NEWS The 27th Hyderabad Book Fair opens today (Friday) and I cannot wait for it to be evening to go there and browse. Like always I plan to drop in on the first day itself though not many stalls would be open. I want to be an early bird and pick up as many good second hand books I can get in the stalls of those sellers who come from other cities. It is a matter of only a few hours now before I rush there. Surprisingly I never come across my other book loving friends at the Book Fair. But I wonder what new things the organizers think up this year. The sale is on for more than ten days and I plan to drop in at least three times or more if my wallet permits me. Sometime on Sunday I saw an ad for a circulating library ‘JustBooks’ that seems to have about half a dozen branches in Hyderabad though there isn’t a branch near enough for me to check it out. It is wonderful to learn about such a thing when all around the existing libraries are on the verge of extinction or have become extinct. Odd that there's already a television program on books with just that name 'Just Books' that I am missing watching because of work even on holidays.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Len Deighton happens to be one of my favourite writers, whose books I like immensely for their plots and also for the terrific one liners in them. Bernard Samson is probably my favorite character. Len Deighton’s ‘The Ipcress File’ is a book I’ve read countless times and also possess several copies of. I have this fascination to know more about the writers I like, stuff like how they write, what they read and so on. I’ve managed to learn such things about many writers but Len Deighton was not one of them. Last Sunday’s one of the finds was a copy of the Silver Jubilee Edition of ‘The Ipcress File’ that had a special foreword by Len Deighton. I picked it up the moment I laid my eyes on it. In the foreword Deighton writes something about how he came to write the book. I surprised to read that he had once been an airline steward and that he had no real ambition to be a writer when he first wrote the book. He wrote the first draft of ‘The Ipcress File’ with a fountain pen and later typed it out on a tiny lightweight portable typewriter. He was influenced by Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh and Raymond Chandler which made me strangely pleased since I too am influenced by Maugham and Chandler. I got the book for only thirty rupees, by the way.
Actually the first find on Sunday was Robert Bolano’s ‘The Savage Detectives’, a fat volume that I got for a hundred and fifty rupees. I had read about Robert Bolano a long back and had included his name in my ‘Must Read Authors’ list. So when I saw ‘The Savage Detectives’ I bought it. TSD is Bolano’s first novel ‘that brought him a lot of fame and international recognition as the leading Latin American author of his generation and one of the most original and important literary voices of the late twentieth century’ as I read on the back cover. Now I wonder when I will get the time to read the book that runs into more than 580 pages.
Another find was the September 2012 issue of ‘Conde Nast Traveller’ that I got for twenty rupees. It was the UK edition and inside were articles about the Amalfi Coast, Arizona, Sri Lanka and other places. After reading a couple of pages it brought from deep within a lot of unhappiness at the way I am living cooped up in a city not doing any kind of traveling worth write about while the weeks, months and years pass by. Incidentally the issue also had a sort of Q&A with David Sedaris and also came across Isle of Jura, the place where George Orwell wrote ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and also Positano, the place on the Amalfi coast, where John Steinbeck wrote the famous article for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ that brought him fame. On the Books page were featured Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Green Hills of Africa’ that I had found very recently, and a book by Arthur Conan Doyle ‘Diary of An Arctic Adventure’ which I am now keen to find. It is an account of a seven month voyage during which Conan Doyle had some pretty profound experiences that changed his outlook.
Next to actual book marks, boarding passes are what I find in most of the second hand books that I buy at Abids and other stores. Sometimes there are also railway tickets, scraps of papers with names and other notes scribbled on them in ink. But last Sunday I came across something totally unexpected and also sad. There’s an edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ by Faber and Faber that I already have two copies of. It is a beautiful edition with illustrations on smooth white paper that is worth several times more than the twenty or thirty rupees I paid for them. So when I saw another copy of the same edition I picked it up. Later when I went home and opened it I realized I had made a basic mistake that many second hand book buyers make. I had forgotten to check if the copy had all the pages. The copy I bought had the pages from 60 to 65 missing. As I turned the pages to see if any more pages were missing two small newspaper cuttings fell out of the pages. One cutting was of an obituary ad of a young girl placed by her uncle and brother. The picture was that of a pretty, innocent girl with a smiling face which made me sad that she had died at such a young age. From the matter on the other side of the cutting I could make out that the girl had died sometime in 2004, February. She was a resident of Hyderabad. When I saw the other newspaper cutting I was heartbroken. It was a small item about the death of the same young girl. It seems the young college going girl committed suicide by hanging out of fear of exams. The book held no other clue as to whose copy it was and how the paper clippings came to be in it. Did it belong to any of her friends or her parents or who? I might never know the answer.
Anyway, after I found Balraj Khanna’s ‘Sweet Chillies’ recently I resolved to look for his other book ‘A Nation of Fools’ that I wanted to read before beginning ‘Sweet Chillies’. I thought it would be a while before I find the book but last Sunday Uma pointed out a copy of ‘A Nation of Fools’ to me on the pavement at Abids. I was thrilled for a moment until I noticed it was not a Penguin edition. I did not want to buy it for this reason and also for the other reason that the seller quoted a high price probably after seeing the way I almost grabbed the book from the pavement. Later I regretted not buying it but I am sure it will be there at Abids next Sunday and I will pay whatever amount the guy asks.