Friday, March 27, 2015

The Sunday Haul ( on 22-03-2015)

A long time ago, I guess it was sometime in the late nineties, I came upon a title that opened a door to a genre I hadn’t until then been aware of. It was in the British Library that I found ‘Dark Star Safari’ by Paul Theroux that for some reason I decided to read. It was a lucky find because after reading ‘Dark Star Safari’ I decided to read more such books. Since then I got seriously hooked to travel fiction and it forms my first preference were I too choose between titles. However, luckily for me, not very long after reading ‘Dark Star Safari’ I found ‘Kingdom by the Sea’ which also I enjoyed reading.

Then I found Bruce Chatwin’s ‘What Am I Doing Here’ and after reading it became a life -long fan of Chatwin’s writing. Over the years I found his other books ‘In Patagonia’ ‘Utz’ 'Anatomy of Restlessness' 'Viceroy of Ouidah' and 'An Anatomy of Restlessness. However, I preferred his travel writing more than his fiction. So when I found his ‘On the Black Hill’ at Abids last Sunday I hesitated for some time. However, I hadn’t read anything by Chatwin for a long time and moreover hadn’t found any book the Sunday before so I decided to pick it up. It wasn’t very expensive also since the seller gave the book to me for only thirty rupees.
Normally I go to Abids on Sundays in the mornings only since I can return home for lunch and relax in the afternoon. Very rarely do I go in the afternoons and especially not in the summer when it becomes too hot to be in the open for very long. However, last Sunday due to some important commitment in the morning I had to visit Abids in the afternoon though it was quite hot. I was also alone and in the end I picked up just this title and returned home.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 8th March, 2015)

On some Sundays my haul at the Abids book bazaar is larger than expected for various reasons. When my friends do not accompany me I tend to look closely at the titles and inevitably manage to find some title that I want to buy. Last Sunday I ended up with a haul of five books, of which, I am glad to say, three titles were by vintage Indian writers.
The first find was a collection of short stories titled ‘Sword & Abyss’ by Keki N. Daruwalla. I knew Daruwalla was a poet but hadn’t known he wrote short stories too. So it was a surprise to find this collection of stories by Vikas Publishing House, a name I hadn’t heard before. Anyway, the collection has the following fifteen stories: The Tree, Shaman, Sword & Abyss, The Pebble Heap, The Bandit Comes Home, The Dwarf Deer, Scarecrow, Love Across the Salt Desert, How the Quit India Movement Came to Alipur, The Case of the Black Ambassador, Death of a Bird Lover, The Idol Theft, The Healing Touch, The Mixed Metaphor and the Case of the Hobo Artist, Martyrdom and Mukti. I got this book in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees.
The next find was ‘Manasarovar’ by Ashokamitran, a writer I like immensely just for the fact that he was born in Secunderabad and had written The Eighteenth Parallel which was set in Hyderabad. I like his style and the subtle humor in his stories. This book cost me fifty rupees that I paid without bargaining.
The third haul of the day was another collection of short stories-‘The Love Letter & Other Stories’ by Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer. I had heard about Basheer, a famous Malayam writer, a long, long time ago and in fact had read a story by him somewhere. I have forgotten the story and also where I had read it. The thirteen stories in the book are translated by V. Abdulla and the book is published by Sangam Books, Hyderabad which came as a surprise to me because I had never heard of it before. It is another completely new name that I have to learn more about. After I read ‘The Bantam Story’ that I had picked up recently I have made it a habit to check out the names of the publishers. Someday I plan to learn more about the publishers of that era. I got this book for just twenty rupees. It is a lovely, quaint book and I am glad I found it. It has these stories: The Love Letter, Mother, If War is to End, The Shore of Solitude, Tiger, Poovan Banana, A Man, Bully Panicker, The Blue Light, A Little Old Love Story, The World Renowned Nose, The Snake and the Mirror, Elephant Wool.
Until recently I was under the impression that I knew quite a bit about the classic crime writers of the past like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Thomas and so on. But apparently there’s a large gap in my knowledge. Ross Macdonald is a name I have read about but for some reason I did not seem to pay much attention to his books that I saw often mostly in second hand book stores. Last Sunday when I saw ‘The Wycherly Woman’ by Ross Macdonald in a heap selling for only twenty rupees I decided to buy it.
The last find was a title by one of my favorite writers- Dave Barry. When I saw ‘Babies and Other Hazards of Sex’ by Dave Barry I just couldn’t resist picking it up though I have two copies of the same title at home. The price was also just right- thirty rupees, another impetus to buy it without a second thought. With this title the haul last Sunday was a total of five books. The total haul till date this year is thirty three books.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Midweek Haul

There’s nothing more exciting for a book lover than finding a book on books. Over the years I’ve managed to find books on writing ( more than 100 titles) books on reading ( ‘Ruined by Reading’ by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, ‘Ex-Libris’ Anne Fadiman, ‘How Reading Changed My Life’ by Anna Quindlen, ‘How to Read and Why’ by Harold Bloom ) and a few books on books (‘The Groaning Shelf’ by Pradeep Sebastian, ‘84, Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff) and also a few memoirs by editors and publishers (‘Stet’ by Diana Athill, ‘At Random’ by Bennett Cerf). But nothing interests me as much as reading a book on books. Sometime last week I cut loose from the tedium at the office and dropped in at the Best Books store at Lakdikapul. There I found ‘The Bantam Story’ by Clarence Petersen. I leafed through the book and discovered it is a treasure trove of information about paperback publishing. I was surprised that this book was priced at just fifty rupees which was a small price to pay for such a wonderful book. In a later post I will try to write more about ‘The Bantam Story.’
Somewhere in a book on writing I remember reading a scene in which a young man refused to meet some guests his father had invited to a party. I did not take note of where these passages were taken from but I remember the effect the scene had on me. I had thought that the young man was being rude though I did not know the reasons.
After picking up ‘The Bantam Story’ the next book I saw was a brand new copy of ‘The Graduate’ by Charles Webb. It was a Penguin title that I rarely miss buying. But before buying it I decided to read the first paragraphs. I was surprised to see that the scene I had read about sometime back in the book on writing came from ‘The Graduate’ by Charles Webb. It sealed my decision to buy the book. It was priced at hundred rupees but I did not mind it because I realized I wouldn’t be able to find the title on the pavement at Abids.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 1-3-2015)

For someone who has studied the sciences in college ( I am an agricultural entomologist by qualification, by the way) I’ve never really lost interest in the various branches of science. While not making any special effort to keep abreast of the latest developments I’ve managed to find and read titles whose writers had an interesting view on specific subjects. Some such titles include ‘The Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson, a truly terrifying account of the damage that pesticides can do to our environment, ‘The Orchid Thief’ by Susan Orlean, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ by Annie Dillard, ‘Sand County Almanack , ‘Desert Solitaire, a title by Sue Hebell. It is rare to find such titles at Abids but when I spot one I don’t let it go. One such title I found last Sunday was ‘Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants’ by Nicholas Herberd that I got for forty rupees.
The Sunday before last I had spotted ‘The Collected Stories’ by Amanda Cross in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees. Despite the enticing blurbs- ‘Amanda Cross is a master of the Literary Whodunit’ and ‘If by some cruel oversight you haven’t discovered Amanda Cross, you have an uncommon pleasure in store for you’ and this is by New York Times Book Review) I did not pick it up. But when I saw it again last Sunday in the same heap, I decided to buy it. The collection has ten stories: Tania’s Nowhere, Once Upon a Time, Arrie and Jasper, The Disappearance of Great Aunt Flavia, Murder Without a Text, Who Shot Mrs Byron Boyd?, The Proposition, The George Eliot Play, and The Baroness.
The next find was another book with the word ‘Seed’ in its title. I’ve had my eye on a hard cover copy of ‘Magic Seeds’ by VS Naipaul for some time now but the seller was asking for a too steep price. I’ve never paid so much for any books so I did not bite. Last Sunday I was lucky to find a decent copy that I got for only forty rupees.