Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part IV of IV

Most of the time I went alone to the book fair alone and those were the days when I found several good books. Once I went with the family and managed to find only one book. Another visit was with my son and once again I could find only one book. On a solo trip to the book fair which happened to be on a day when it was Christmas I found one book. But this one book was a title that I was happy to find because it was by a famous travel writer.

Travel books happen to be another genre I love to read because I like to travel. Around a quarter of the books in my collection is made of books by travels writers like Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Pico Iyer, Jonathan Raban, WG Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, and also Jan Morris whose style of writing I like immensely. On my fifth visit to the book fair the only book I found was ‘ Pax Britannica’ by Jan Morris. I found this book in a stall of one of the sellers at Abids. He was the one who gave me a pass to the book fair that allowed free entry on all the days. Last year too he had done me the same favor. Though I do not buy many books from him at Abids but whenever I buy for him I pay him whatever price he quotes. He is one of those few sellers at Abids I do not bargain with.
Anyway I noticed that Pax Britannica was the second title in a trilogy about the British Empire called ‘The Pax Britannica Trilogy. The other two titles were: ‘Heaven’s Command’ and ‘Farewell the Trumpets.’’ Now I am in a dilemma. Should I read ‘Pax Britannica’ right away or wait until I find the other two titles in the trilogy. Though finding them seems impossible I am going to look for them until I find them somewhere. This is why people like me always learn about more titles to read. But this is one Jan Morris title I am not going to read right away.
I was back at the book fair again on the next day. But this time I was with friends- Umashankar and Daniel. I managed to find more books, four to be exact. The first find was ‘The High Window’ by Raymond Chandler which was a Penguin edition. It looked an ancient copy wrapped in plastic that was once clear. Though I already have a copy of this book I bought it for a hundred rupees since it is quite impossible to find Raymond Chandler titles.
The second book I found was another screenwriting title, the fourth such title related to movies I found at the book fair. It was ‘Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters’ by Michael Tierno that I got for hundred rupees. It looks like fate is conspiring to make me read as many script writing books as possible so I could finish the script I am working on.
In the same stall I saw a nice copy of ‘Jaya Ganga’ by Vijay Singh and it was a Penguin edition. A long time ago I had read about this book but hadn’t come across it anywhere. I hadn’t planned to return for a final visit next day which happened to be last day of the book fair. I hesitated for some time but ultimately gave in and bought ‘Jaya Ganga.’
My final visit to the book fair ended with a lucky find. In one stall somehow my eyes fell on a heap of children’s books kept on the ground beneath a table at the front of the stall. I spotted ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys on the top of the heap. The board above said ‘Rs 20’ which was enough to make me buy it. Another reason was that the copy I had at home was heavily underlined on almost all the pages. This was a pristine copy, cheap, and the publisher was W.W. Norton and Company.

I bought a total of 24 books at the book fair this year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part III of IV


It appeared quite difficult to restrain myself from going to the Book Fair on the third consecutive day but I managed but only for a day. I was back the next day for my third visit and landed three good titles.
Being someone who reads a lot and buys books at every possible opportunity I try to read about books, reading, and about collecting books. I have a few such titles such as ‘How to Read and Why’ by Harold Bloom, ‘Ruined by Reading’ by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, ‘The Groaning Shelf’ by Pradeep Sebastian, and in my view, the best of such titles- ‘Ex-Libris’ by Anne Fadiman. Finding this title a few years back was one of the happiest days of my life. Sometime in April while at Goa I found my second copy of this wonderful, little book. Luckily I found another title edited by Anne Fadiman which was ‘Rereadings.’

‘Rereadings’ has seventeen writers on their experiences of rereading their favorite books. Of the seventeen I could recognize only Allegra Goodman, Vivian Gornick, Pico Iyer, Philip Lopate, Vijay Seshadri only and the rest were new names to me. However it seemed an interesting book that I want to read very soon. It was a hardcover copy in good condition with jacket intact for which I paid a hundred and fifty rupees.
Though I read a lot I cannot write as well as some of the authors I like. I haven’t been able to write as well as I wish I could despite my best efforts since more than a decade. In an endless effort to improve my writing skills I keep reading books on writing in the hope that someday I’ll be able to crack it. One of the better books on writing that I had read is ‘On Writing Well’ by William Zinsser. I found my first copy of this title a long time back and till now I must have bought nearly half a dozen copies of this book. At the book fair I found yet another copy of ‘On Writing Well’ that I bought for a hundred and fifty rupees.
Before the book fair began I had a feeling that I would be able to find some titles that I am desperately searching for. Two titles in the final Len Deighton trilogy were in this list of books I wanted badly- Spy Hook, and Spy Sinker. The day before on my second visit to the book fair I found a nice copy of ‘Spy Sinker’ and this day I found the other missing title- ‘Spy Hook’ which was again a hardcover copy. This was also an Alfred Knopf edition that did not fit in with the rest of the titles in the three trilogies that I had in my bookshelf.
I was back the next day again to the book fair that seemed to be attracting unprecedented crowds every day. In fact it was so crowded that I found it difficult to make my way into some stalls and in those that I managed to get in by squeezing past I was unable to take a good look at the books on the shelves. However, I managed to find a brand new and beautiful copy of ‘The Foreigner’ by Arun Joshi. I can never let go of any title by Arun Joshi that I come across though I own at least two copies of each of his half a dozen titles except ‘The Survivors’ that I haven’t been able to find anywhere.

At the end of my fourth visit to the book fair I bought a total of eighteen books. If I bought eighteen books in just three visits in the four days of the book fair then I realized I would end up buying nearly fifty books if I went every day for the remaining seven days. I decided that I would buy only one book on each visit if I can help it.

Tomorrow: The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part IV of IV

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part II of IV


After finding six good titles on the first day of the book fair I was eager to go back again the next day. I did not want to wait until it was time to leave the office in the evening before going to the book fair. So after lunch at two in the afternoon I asked for permission and left the office. I headed straight to the venue of the book fair which was not too far from the Secretariat. I planned to look around for a couple of hours until half past four and return to the office. It went according to plan except I hadn’t expected to return from the book fair on the second day with nine books. It was not only one of the biggest hauls I’ve made this year but also one of the best hauls containing some really fantastic titles I wouldn’t have found at Abids or anywhere else.
Sometime recently I read an article in Caravan by Anjum Hasan titled ‘Novel Renditions’which about English translations of some of the best known novels in Hindi written by famous names. I wrote down the list of these novels which is why I must have remembered some of them. One of the titles in this list was ‘Tyagpatra’ by Jainendra. I spotted it in one of the second hand book stalls that I had already visited on the first day. It did not take long for me to decide to buy it since anything that Anjum Hasan writes about is worth reading. I got this book for a hundred and fifty rupees.
Similarly, after I had found ‘Tears of Autumn’ by Charles Mccarry at Abids a couple of years ago I picked it up on a hunch and also read it soon after. I came across a list of six novels somewhere on the net described as little known novels that were extremely good. One of the titles on the list was ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith that I somehow remembered. I saw this same title in a section of children’s books in a stall of second hand book set up by someone from Mumbai. It was quite a thick tome running into more than five hundred pages. I wondered if it was children but picked it up anyhow since I was getting it for only a hundred rupees.
Another good author I discovered entirely by chance was Jayne Anne Phillips. Sometime in 2013 I guess I found her collection of short stories titled ‘Fast Lanes’ at Abids. I read it soon after and was completely enamored by the stories and as well as the author’s style. The stories were completely different from what I had read till then. Since then I have been looking for other titles by this author. Luckily, I found ‘Shelter’ which was a novel by Jayne Anne Phillips in one of the stalls selling second hand books. I did not waste any time thinking whether to buy it or not but simply bought it for a hundred and fifty rupees.
One author I’ve been looking forward to read is Anees Salim, especially after he won the Hindu Fiction prize last year. Though it wasn’t the title that got him the prize I found ‘Tales from a Vending Machine’ and got it for only hundred rupees. The book was in a good condition and appeared almost new. I felt lucky to have found an Anees Salim title at last.
In the same stall I saw a good copy of ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov which was a nice Penguin copy that appeared almost brand new. I tried to recollect if I already owned a copy of this title and convinced that I did not own a copy. The seller was one of the guys who sells his wares at Abids and he wished me effusively as if seeing a long lost friend. I felt flattered by his attention and bought the book paying a hundred rupees for it.
At the next second hand book stall that I visited I found a hard-to-locate title- ‘All About H.Hatterr’ by G.V. Desani. It was a copy of the same edition that I had found quite recently. Though I already own three copies of Hatterr I wanted to buy this copy too. Iknnew I would spend a restless night if I did not buy it and would return the next day looking for it. So I spared myself all that agony and bought my fourth copy of ‘All About H. Hatterr’ by G.V. Desani. I also thought that it was high time I actually began reading it.
I’ve recently begun rereading the Len Deighton trilogies. I have almost finished reading the first trilogy- Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match- with only a few pages of ‘London Match’ left to read. I plan to begin the first title in the next trilogy- Faith, Hope, and Charity that I have a complete set of. My only worry is that I might finish reading the second trilogy too before I find two titles in the last trilogy that are missing in my collection. I do not have ‘Spy Hook’ and ‘Spy Sinker’. I saw a hard cover copy of ‘Spy Sinker’ but it was an edition different from the Grafton Books editions that I had of all the titles in the three trilogies. Finally I realized it was more important for me to have all the titles so that I could finish reading all the trilogies rather than worry about matching copies of the same edition. Plus, it was coming cheap at just fifty rupees.
The budding screen writer inside me almost jumped with joy after spotting a title called ‘Secrets of Film Writing’ by Tom Lazarus. Finding it triggered an internal debate that went like this- Would buying this title really make me begin the script that I have been fiddling with since more than a decade? What if it contains the one piece of advice that I need badly to help me complete the script and one that I would miss learning if I do not buy this book? After a brief but obviously one sided debate I gave up and bought the book. Someday I will shut him up I told myself after shelling out a hundred rupees for the book that I hope will have some good advice that would help me finish the script for an action packed film that will have Puri Jagannath or VV Vinayak come running to me to beg for it.
After the turn of the budding screen writer it was the turn of the budding chef/cook inside me. I began another internal debate with him after spotting ‘Eating Indian’ by Chitrita Bannerjee. I was feeling hungry by then since it was more than two hours since I had been looking for books at the book fair and was craving for a cup of tea. I guess the hunger and the fact that this was a Penguin title settled the debate and I ended up buying this book. With this title I had picked up a total of nine books on my second visit to the book fair.


Tomorrow: The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part III of IV

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 2015 Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Part I of IV

If you are anything like me you probably will not swoon or faint if I tell you how many books I bought at the ten day Hyderabad Book Fair that ended on Sunday. If there is anything that’ll make me go out of control it is books. Then if there is anything that will make me go totally out of control then it is book fair. The problem with book fairs is that book lovers like me cannot get enough. Nnot only do they happen only once a year, there are too many stalls and they go on for nearly ten days which makes it impossible for someone like me to buy just one or two books. I ended up buying a total of 24 books, all of them second hand, by the way.
Though I’ve been to almost all the Book Fair held in Hyderabad every year I always get excited when the dates of the year’s book fair are announced. More than a month ago I read that bout the dates of the 29th Hyderabad Book Fair in the newspapers. Since then I had been counting the ays to the day when the Book Fair was supposed to begin on 18th of December. As is my habit I was there at the book fair in the NTR Stadium on the very first day. I land there on the first day in the hope of finding some good second hand books before the eager hordes descend. However I was surprised to find that the hordes had already descended by the time I reached the book fair around six in the evening.

I was surprised at the huge crowd that had come on the first day itself which was a bit unusual since on the inaugural day nobody bothers to turn up. I had a lot of difficulty moving around I the stalls craning my neck this way and that way to look at the titles of the books arranged in a haphazard manner. Then at the second or the third secondhand book stall I entered I found the first of the treasure trove I managed to dig up over the six visits I made to the book fair. On my first visit on the first day I managed to find six wonderful titles.

The first book I found was ‘Kalki- Selected Stories’ translated by Gowri Ramnarayan. Frankly, I hadn’t heard of Kalki R. Krishnamurthy until I picked this book after I saw the Penguin imprint. I read inside that Kalki R. Krishnamurthy was a pioneer of modern Tamil literature and is best known for his historical fiction in Tamil, a genre in which he remains unsurpassed. He was also the editor of the Tamil weekly, Ananda Vikatan. Following my resolve to read as much regional literature as possible I picked up this collection that has a dozen stories: The Letter; The Poison Cure; The Rebirth of Srikanthan; The Governor’s Visit; Rural Fantasy; The Tiger King; Sivakozhundu of Tiruvazhundur; The Big Swelling Sea; The S.S. Menaka; The Ruined Fort; Veenai Bhavani; and Madatevan’s Spring.
At another stall I found another titles that I had only heard about a long back. It was ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ by Junot Diaz. This book too did not come cheap and I hesitated for a long time about spending another hundred and fifty rupees on this book. I thought that since I had not come across this title at Abids all these years it was unlikely that I would find it in the future. It was in good condition and even had a book mark inside so I bought it.
I went in the next second hand book stall not really expecting that I would find a book that I was really desperately looking for ever since I heard the author’s name. I had heard about ‘Get Carter’ by Ted Lewis a couple of years back and by a stroke of luck I had found its screenplay. Later Uma gifted the actual novel ‘Get Carter’ on my birthday last year. I was happy but I fantasized about finding a title by Ted Lewis at Abids or somewhere at a second hand book store. That fantasy came true when I happened to look down a crazily arranged bookshelf, and saw at the very bottom the title ‘Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon’ by Ted Lewis. I felt a thrill run up my spine and goosebumps on my skin as I slowly retrieved the book. I checked it carefully and found that it was in pretty good condition with all pages intact. Stamped on several pages indicated that this copy was from ‘Reader’s Corner’ Napean Road, Bombay. I wondered how much the guy would ask and expected the price to be about two hundred rupees or so. I nearly fainted when the seller asked for just fifty rupees. In all my twenty five years or so of book hunting I never felt so happy as on that day finding a Ted Lewis title at last.
My streak of luck did not end and was only just beginning. I have always dreamt of writing a script for a blockbuster action movie that would make me rich beyond imagination. That dream is what has make me buy more than a dozen books on script writing. However I am yet to finish the script that I had started almost a decade ago. Just a couple of weeks ago I had found a book that had four screenplays of Woody Allen. I was very thrilled to find Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography, ‘The Magic Lantern’ at the next stall I visited. I grabbed it and greedily looked at the books displayed if there were any more such titles. I was stunned to find ‘Making Movies’ by Sidney Lumet in the same stack. I paid three hundred for these two books.
The last title I found was ‘Writers on Writing’ by Alison Gibs that I saw at the last second hand book stall that I decided to check out before calling it a day. This book had ten top writers sharing their writing experiences and how they dealt with the various steps that go into their writing. There’s Jeffrey Archer, Beryl Bainbridge, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Frederick Forsyth, James Herbert, Elizabeth Jane Howard, P.D. James, Wendy Perriam, Craig Thomas, and Fay Weldon featured in this wonderful book that I got for only hundred rupees.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 20-12-2015)


The haul of just three books that I found at Abids last Sunday was peanuts compared to the nearly two dozen books I found at the Book Fair in the four visits I made so far. I thought I’d write about the book haul at the Book Fair sometime after it is over.I am finding it difficult to write about finding so many books in just one post. I plan to do a couple of posts about the Book Fair hauls at leisure but most certainly before the end of the year.
Last Sunday it was full house, that is, there was everyone in the Gang of Four that scoured the pavements at Abids for good titles. After chai and a chat about global events and such things we set out for the real job that we came to Abids for. I had already been to the Book Fair by then and had bought more than a dozen books so I was really not inclined to buy any books at Abids. But even though I had bought a truck load of books the previous evening I cannot resist picking up a good title if I find one at Abids. So the first book I saw was ‘Charity’ by Len Deighton that had a pink cover and different from the edition I had at home. I really did not want to buy it but it was in a heap of books selling for just ten rupees so I bought it though what I was really looking for was ‘Hook’ and ‘Sinker’ in the ‘Hook, Line, and Sinker’ trilogy by Len Deighton.
The next book I found was ‘The French Connection’ by Robin Moore. I had seen this book the previous Sunday but hadn’t thought of buying it because I did not know much about it though the title sounded very familiar. On the cover it said that it was made into a movie also. This Sunday however I bought it. I got the book for forty rupees.
The next find was not my usual crime fiction, literary fiction or any of the kind of books I usually buy. It was a cook book that I picked up. I found ‘Indian Fast Food’ by Pushpesh Pant that had an attractive cover and seemed to be almost brand new. It was in quite good condition and the production was of a very high standard. I had read some of Pushpesh Pant’s columns in the newspapers more out of curiosity than any real interest in cooking. However, I must say that this urge to learn to cook is becoming stronger as I keep finding more such books. Anyway, I saw that the recipes mentioned inside the book seemed fairly easy and ended up buying the book. Incidentally, though the classy book was printed and bound in Singapore I got it for an Indian pavement price of only fifty rupees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Coffee with the Chief Minister

The last occasion I was in a meeting with a Chief Minister was sometime back in the year 2013. In this post that I am holding at the Secretariat I get to sit in meetings held at the level of the Chief Minister though not regularly. It is only when some kind of a disaster happens that we have such meetings. I even attended a meeting of the Uttarakhand Chief Minister in Dehra Dun where I was sent after the floods in Kedarnath. However, after formation of Telangana I hadn’t had the opportunity to attend any meeting with the Chief Minister. A couple of weeks ago I missed a meeting on the drought because I was stuck in traffic. However last week I managed to be a meeting with the Chief Minister in his official chamber in the Secretariat where only a select few are allowed.
One gets a feeling of dread as well as a feeling of excitement when meeting the Chief Minister. One gets to see the top man in action and also see how capable he is. One CM during a meeting after one particularly ghastly road accident involving a Volvo bus had us dumbfounded with a question he asked. He had asked, ‘What is the velocity of the injuries?’ Some quick thinking by a senior officer present spared the CM from embarrassment. On an earlier occasion the same CM had asked what IMD stood for. (India Meteorological Department)

Anyway, a little more than a fortnight ago a team of officials from the Centre had visited the State to tour the drought affected areas. After their visits to the districts they had to make a courtesy call on the CM. I had wondered if I could tag along the team for the meeting with the CM. I was waiting for such an opportunity to come face to face with the CM. Here I must confess that I am more than a bit overawed by the Chief Minister (Sri K. Chandrasekhara Rao) not because he is the CM because he happens to be a self-confessed voracious reader among other things. That and the fact that he has single handedly achieved the state of Telangana. I wanted to see him in person and listen to him talk. On an earlier occasion I had wished him when he passed a few feet away from where I was standing.

On the chosen day we were told that the appointment with the CM was at five in the evening. I almost did not make it when the security person at the door of the CM’s chamber did not let me inside. Everyone had gone inside and I was stopped. As luck would have it a senior official came out. There is one habit that I have that came in good use then. I always make it a point to wish senior officials I know by name though they may have no idea who I was. I guess this officer recognized me and told the security person to let me in. When I stepped inside the CM’s chamber I saw that everyone was already seated. The CM lifted up his head when he saw me enter. I greeted him with folded palms and after he acknowledged my greeting with a nod I noiselessly took my seat at the very back.

In the nearly half hour meeting I got the chance to confirm for myself some of the things I had heard about the Chief Minister. I had heard that the CM studies everything about an issue in great depth before speaking on it. So when he explained some of the strategies (Short term and long term) for managing the drought in the country I was surprised how clear he was about what he was talking about. During my five years in this Department I hadn’t met anyone who had such a clear idea regarding tackling drought.

What happened next revealed that the CM indeed is a well-read person. Of course, there were books on the table before him. Someone talked about cloud seeding and another person said that potassium nitrate was used in Cloud seeding. I thought something was wrong about the discussion. Before I could realize what it was the CM in a calm voice corrected the person saying that it was ‘silver iodide’ that was used in cloud seeding and not potassium nitrate. There was embarrassed silence among the officers present. I could count at least two officers who were IIT grads.
I had also heard that the CM was a gracious host and I had also seen on TV how he receives his guests. In earlier such meetings of other Chief Ministers even as the meeting was going on uniformed waiters with trays piled high with snacks and beverages would enter the hall and start putting the plates on the table before each participant. There was no choice and you had to eat and drink whatever was offered.
But that day the CM asked the leader of the Government of India team, ‘Aap kya lenge? Tea, Coffee, buttermilk or coconut water?’ Only after knowing what each guest wanted did he ring the bell to call his personal attendant and tell him what the guests wanted. That’s how I ended up having coffee with the Chief Minister. However I couldn’t help noticing that there weren’t any bookshelves in the CM’s room that had a simple d├ęcor save a wall sized TV screen.

It was a rare treat watching the CM brief the visiting officers about the power, irrigation, drinking water situation in the state. He also told them what the Government was doing for the citizens of the newest state of the country. I could see that the guests were impressed with the CM’s knowledge and his speech. I was also very pleased that I got the opportunity to sit in the meeting. I was more pleased when I saw myself in a photo of the meeting that appeared the next day on the front page of almost all the vernacular papers.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 13-12-2015)


In a record of sorts the total number of books I’ve bought so far this year has crossed 200 compared to something less than a hundred books in the past couple of years. This means an average of four books a week. Almost all these 200 books have been bought at Abids on Sundays save a few I bought at second hand books stores and at sales of second hand books. There have been quite a few occasions when I have returned from Abids with more than five books. All of a sudden I find titles that I must not at any cost leave behind. Last Sunday was one such day when I found more than five books. To be exact, I found eight books that I bought without feeling guilty.
The first book I found was ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’ by Pablo Neruda that was a slim copy. The seller was one who usually quoted high prices for books that were thick. Since Neruda’s book was a slim one he asked for just thirty rupees after looking carefully at the front and the back cover for a long time as if it would tell him what it was worth. It had these poems: Body of a Woman/The Light Wraps You/Ah Vastness of Pines/The Morning is Full/ So That You Will Hear Me/I Remember You As You Were/Leaning Into The Afternoons/White Bee/Drunk With Pines/We Have Lost Even/Almost Out OF The Sky/Your Breast Is Enough/I Have Gone Marking/Every Day You Play/I Like For You To Be Still/In My Sky At Twilight/ Thinking, Tangling Shadows/Here I Love You/Girl Lithe and Tawny/Tonight I Can Write, and A Song of Despair.

My next find was a nice copy of ‘The Art of Loving’ by Erich Fromm that I got for just thirty rupees.
I love to read anything related to books whether it is books on writing books or publishing them or books related to publishers. A long time back I had found Bennett Cerf’s memoir ‘At Random’ that I bought without a second thought. Sometime back I found a nice copy of ‘Stet’ by Diana Athill in a pile of books at Abids. I had got it very cheap and I was quite ecstatic when I found it. Later I found another copy though not at such a cheap price but I was glad I had found it. Last Sunday in the same heap I found ‘Another Life’ by Michael Korda. It was a hardcover copy and in quite good condition. It was in a heap selling for just fifty rupees.
A long time back I had found a copy of ‘African Calliope’ by Edward Hoagland. Travel books are another of my weakness and I pick up every travelogue that I come across. I have travel books by writers like Paul Theroux, WG Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, Jan Morris, Pico Iyer, Ryszard Kapuscinski and other travel writers. I do not remember if I had read the copy of ‘African Calliope’ by Edward Hoagland that I have but I did not want to miss this copy. So I bought it even though I had a copy already.
There are a few titles of Robert B. Parker that I do not possess and when I saw a copy of ‘Walking Shadows’ by Robert B. Parker I snapped it up at once. I found this copy among a lot of crime fiction titles of the 50’s and 60’s that had quaint covers.
On the previous Sunday I had seen a copy of a book by an Indian publisher that claimed on the cover that it was banned. It was a copy of ‘Trapped’ by Narendrapal Singh which won the Sahitya Akademi award but was banned by the Punjab government for obscenity winning author. I did not feel like buying it for some reason and decided to give it the slip. But when I saw it again last Sunday I felt intrigued by the cover and decided to buy it since I was building up a collection of titles by Indian writers published in the early years of the previous century.
While reading books on screenwriting and other books related to movies I began to make a list of the movies mentioned in the hope that someday I would find the time to watch them. One of the movies in that list happened to be ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’ I had not expected to find the novel on which the movie was based and so when I saw it at Abids I decided to buy it. ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ is a movie based on the novel of the same name by Richard Condon, and features Denzel Washington. I hope to read the book some day and also get to watch the movie too.
I had read somewhere Stephen King mentioning ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ by George V. Higgins as one of the best crime fiction titles that he had read. Since then I was on the lookout for it and sometime back I had found a book called ‘On Writing’ by George V. Higgins at a sale and had bought it. Last Sunday I saw a different title by George V. Higgins called ‘Outlaws’ and I picked it up thinking that if he had written a novel that Stephen King liked then anything he had written would be as good. I got this book for forty rupees only.

The Hyderabad Book Fair begins today and goes on for another ten days. From past experience I can say that I will end up buying not less than ten books in the Book Fair. I don’t even want to try to restrain myself from buying books because I always find good books at the Book Fair that I don’t want to miss.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 6-12-2015)

Last Sunday I almost did not go to Abids. I had work at the office since there was a Govt of India team of officers visiting the state in view of the drought in the State. However, I decided to make a quick round before going to the office which turned out to be a good decision. If I had missed going to Abids last Sunday I would have missed meeting Jai who dropped in after a long time and also missed finding three wonderful books.
After tea and our usual chat about movies, books, politics we (me, Jai, Uma, and Shrikant) we hit the pavements.
The Sunday before I had seen a copy of ‘Roots and Shadows’ by Shashi Deshpande that I did not buy. When I saw it again last Sunday I decided to buy it. Disha books was the publisher and the book was in a good condition. At the same time I saw another Disha book that I picked up on a hunch. It was ‘Diary of a Decade of Agony’ by Avinash Dharmadhikari but its size made me think twice. It was an English translation from Marathi. I read a few lines at random and decided to buy it. It was a good decision because when I looked at it again I discovered that the author had been a journalist as well as an IAS officer. There was something about his visit to this state before it was bifurcated which looked interesting. I bought these two books for hundred and twenty rupees.
The next find was a treasure. Ever since I discovered Ross Macdonald and read a couple of his novels I decided to buy every title that I could find. Last Sunday I got a thrill when I spotted a book whose author was John Ross Macdonald. I wondered if it was Ross Macdonald and it was. The books spread out on the pavement seemed to be all crime fiction titles published sometime in the sixties and seventies judging from the covers. It was ‘The Way Some People Die’ and I got it for just twenty rupees.
After finding ‘The Way Some People Die’ I decided to leave. If I had continued looking for some more time I am certain I would have found some more good titles. But since it was getting late I left reluctantly though happy that I had found three good titles.

Friday, December 04, 2015

A Mid-week Haul and the Sunday Haul (on 29-11-2015)


If I step out of the house on a day that happens to be a holiday I can never return home without a handful of books. The Wednesday before this Wednesday it was a holiday for us in the government due to a local festival. Somehow I managed to be indoors all day until evening when I started to become restless. It was the sort of restlessness I feel when I have been away from a bookstore for too long. After I decided to drop in at a second- hand bookstore the restlessness seemed to abate a little.
An hour later I dropped in at the YMCA branch of Best Book Centre with the sole intention of only looking at all the books on the shelves. I hadn’t really meant to buy anything but when I saw a book with a beautiful cover I took it out of the shelf to take a good look. It turned out to be a nice copy of ‘New Writing in India’ edited by Adil Jussawala and I just wasn’t able to put it back. The cover was too good and what was inside was captivating. It was published in 1974 and has dozens of extracts from novels, poems most of which were translations from works by writers who are a virtual Who’s who of Indian writers. These include Qurrutulain Hyder, N.Pichamurty, Vinda Karandikar, Dhoomil, Gieve Patel, Nissim Ezekiel, MT Vasudevan Nair, Balachandra Nemade, OV Vijayan, Gyanranjan, P.Lankesh, Ashokamitran, Badal Sircar, Kishor Charan Das, Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Gajanan Madhav, Shrikant Varma, Shanmuga Subbaiah,, Baquar Mehdi, Suresh Joshi, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Balraj Manra, Nirmal Verma, Vilas Sarang, Madhu Rye, Gulam Muhammed Sheikh, Benoy Majumdar, Amrita Pritam, LP Bantleman, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, Gopalakrishna Adiga, Akhtar -ul- Iman, Kamala Das, Ravji Patel, , Shakti Chattopadhyay, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. There were writings from all languages except Telugu which was a disappointment since I am beginning to get interested in Telugu and Hindi literature.

I felt happy finding this wonderful book because I have been looking for something like it. Even though the price was hundred rupees I bought it because it highly unlikely to find this title again anywhere. I wouldn’t have known such a book existed had I not seen it last Wednesday. It is a welcome addition to my growing collection of books on Indian writing. A couple of weeks ago I found ‘English and the Indian Short Story,’ ‘Indian English Poetry since 1950-An Anthology’ ‘Six Acres and a Third’ ‘Chowringhee’ so finding ‘New Indian Writing’ has added fuel to the desire to read as much Indian writing as possible for me. Since the Hyderabad Book Fair is beginning from the 17th of this month I am planning to buy as many such books as I can find. I am already counting the days to the Hyderabad Book Fair.
Another find was a book I was looking for. I saw a nice copy of ‘The Spy Who Came In from the Cold’ by John Le Carre and decided to buy it since I am unable to locate the copy I had with me. I am rereading all books by Len Deighton and plan to read the Le Carre titles next. This book too was priced at hundred rupees which is a bit expensive since I can find it at Abids at much cheaper prices but I haven’t been able to find a good copy. I already have a nice hardcover copy of ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ and a copy of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ that I plan to read one after the other very soon.
On Sunday at Abids I found ‘Room at the Top’ by John Braine. It was a Penguin edition and I couldn’t resist buying it. I got it for only thirty rupees. I saw on the cover that ‘Room at the Top’ had been made into a movie also. Later after I got home when I googled it I found that it had created a minor sensation when ‘Room at the Top’ was published. I also confirmed that John Braine was the same author who wrote the book on writing a novel. I do not know when I will get to read this book but I was glad I found it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 22-11-2015)

Not surprisingly it is on days that I make a firmer-than-usual resolve not to buy any book on my trip to Abids on Sundays that I end up buying more than the usual couple of books I invariably buy at Abids. Last Sunday this was what happened after I landed at Abids with this resolve in mind. The first book was one I didn’t really have to buy but I bought it. We don’t keep pets at home nor am I overtly fond of dogs. Though I have had a scary encounter with a huge dog at Port Blair almost a decade ago I am kindly disposed towards dogs in general. However, watching Cesar Millan’s show on TLC in which he talks about dog psychology made me more interested in dogs. My son loves dogs and is aching for a pet dog since he was a small kid it hasn’t been possible to get a pet for some reasons. Anyway, on Sunday I saw a nice copy of ‘Cesar’s Way’ that I immediately picked up. I got it for only fifty rupees.
The next book I found was ‘Chowringhee’ by Sankar that I almost grabbed off the pavement. It was a beautiful Penguin edition and I was getting it for fifty rupees only. Sometime last year I had bought Sankar’s ‘Middleman’ and after reading it had been looking for more books by Sankar. The translation was done by the well-known writer Arunava Sinha and I was glad I found this book. I am looking forward to begin reading it sometime soon. This was one buy I am not going to regret.
The next find was a book I read was flying off the shelves after the recent incidents in Paris. I have a copy of ‘A Moveable Feast’ by Ernest Hemingway that I had picked up a long time ago somewhere. I do not remember where the copy is but when I saw another copy of ‘A Moveable Feast’ I decided to buy it. It is a slim book of not more than 126 pages but cost me a little more than what I usually pay. I got it for sixty rupees and it was worth it because the copy was quite good though inside some of the pages appeared to be stained. It is one of the few books I am planning to read next after I finish the lot I am currently reading.
On the way back home I stopped at one of the three sellers and immediately found another couple of wonderful books both incidentally linked to movies. I found ‘Four Films of Woody Allen’ that I took out to see if it was in a good condition because I had made up my mind to buy it. It was in an excellent condition and my next fear was what the seller would ask. I had guessed at the price which he would quote but I was pleasantly surprised when he asked for one third of the price I had in mind. I got this book containing screenplays of four of Woody Allen’s films (Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan, and Stardust Memories) for just seventy five rupees.
The other book that I got at the same price was ‘Stephen King Goes To the Movies’ which was a book containing six books by Stephen King that were made into movies. There’s an introduction by King before each story telling us something about how he came to write the story and how and what liked in the movie version. The stories in this book are: 1408, The Mangler, Hearts in Atlantis, The Shawshank Redemption, Children of the Corn. This is another whopper of a book that is thicker than a brick. But I am glad I found these two books in addition to the three books I found at Abids.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 15-11-2015)

Normally titles in current bestseller lists do not appeal to me as much as those belonging to an earlier era and hence do not find a place on my bookshelves unless I read some terrific reviews by critics I follow. Even then I do not rush to buy them and tend to wait until second hand copies appear. Sometimes it is a short wait but strangely it is difficult to find second hand copies of some titles that many people talk about. I had heard of ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn but had not felt any urge to buy and read it. I wasn’t really interested in reading though I have been told that the book had been made into a movie also.
But last Sunday when I saw an almost brand new copy of ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn I thought it wouldn’t be such a bright idea to let go of it. After some really hard bargaining I managed to get it for a hundred and fifty rupees though the seller asked for two hundred and fifty rupees for it. It was a nice copy that looked new and did not have any name or signature or any kind of blemish on it. I felt glad about its appearance but when I saw a second copy with another seller I wondered if I had paid too much for it. I should not have been so hasty I thought. But since I had already bought there was no point in regretting the purchase.
My search for the missing titles in the three trilogies of Len Deighton almost ended after I found two more titles in the second trilogy of Faith, Hope, and Charity. I found copies of both Hope, and Charity at the same seller which was a happy accident. I got these two titles for sixty rupees which made me feel that I have really arrived as a hard bargainer. The seller had asked for sixty rupees for each title but I got away buying them for half the price. Now I have all the titles in the Game, Set, Match and the Faith, Hope, and Charity trilogies. I need to find only Line, and Sinker in the Hook, Line, and Sinker trilogy. I hope to find them by the time I finish reading the first two trilogies.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 08-11-2015)

There are a few writers I am obsessed with and Arun Joshi happens to be one of them. I have all of his titles except for ‘The Survivors’ which is proving to be elusive. I have found ‘The Foreigner’ ‘The Apprentice’ ‘The Last Labyrinth’ ‘The City and The River’ and also ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ and I have read all of them. Of all these titles ‘The City and The River’ is my least favourite novel by Arun Joshi. Somehow I did not like it as much as I liked his other titles. However, whenever I come across any of these titles I make it a point to pick them up. In this manner I have gathered multiple copies of all the above titles except ‘The City and The River’ of which I had only one copy. Last Sunday I found another copy.
Because Diwali was only a day away the shops at Abids were open on Sunday which meant that the sellers of second hand books on the pavements at Abids were not at their usual places. However, some of them who have their regular places not on pavements before the stores were there at their usual places. It was at one such seller who has his regular spot near the GPO that I saw ‘The City and The River’ by Arun Joshi. I was thrilled to find that it was an original edition published in 2000. It was a hardcover copy with the jacket intact. However it was not in a pristine condition and there was some damage on the front as well as at the back though the pages inside were intact. I did not think the damage in no way affected the value of the book so I picked it up. I got it for just sixty rupees.

The only title by Arun Joshi that I do not have is his short story collection- The Survivors. It is proving to be elusive though I have my eyes peeled for it and hungrily look for it wherever I go. I am sure I will find it at Abids itself because it was at Abids that I have found all the copies of Arun Joshi’s novels apart from the copies I bought at second hand bookstores in Hyderabad and elsewhere.