Friday, May 29, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 24-05-2015)

In the short, hot hour that I was at Abids last Sunday I managed to find two books. A team from the Central Government was visiting the state so I had to go to the office and make arrangements. Another reason was that it was terribly hot because of the heat wave and I couldn’t be out in the sun for more than an hour. So I spent some time in the cafĂ© sipping chai and talking about books and later began the hunt that did not last more than an hour.
The first title I spotted was ‘Candy is Dandy’ by Ogden Nash that I got for just fifty rupees. It was in a pretty good condition and had hundreds of Ogden Nash’s comic verse. Some of the funniest ones are here:

The Eel
I don’t mind eels
Except as meals
And the way they feels.

The Fly
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.

The Cow
The cow is of the bovine ilk
One end is moo, the other, milk.

The Ant
The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious
So what?
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?

Another find was a collection of short stories titled ‘A Dove of the East’ by Mark Helprin that I found in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees. This collection has the following twenty stories: A Jew of Persia; Because of the Waters of the Flood; Ruin; First Russian Summer; Katrina, Katrin; Shooting the Bar-1004; Lightning North of Paris; Mountain Dancing in Truchas; Leaving the Church; Katherine Comes to Yellow Sky; Elisha Hospital; End of the Line; The Legitimacy of Medium Beauty; The Home Front; Willis Avenue; Elizabeth Ridinoure; The Silver Bracelet; On the ‘White Girl’ by James Whistler; Back Bay Conservatory; and A Dove of the East.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 17-05-2015)

Since the past few weeks I’ve been seeing a nice copy of ‘All the King’s Men’ by Robert Pen Warren at Abids but have been hesitating to buy it. I was in two minds about it. One reason, a strong one, to buy it was that it was a brand new copy, and plus it was with a seller who would give it to me at any price I asked. The reason that put me off buying it was that it was quite a thick tome, somewhere around 660 pages of dense print that would take me weeks to finish if I ever decide to read it. All these days I have been able to resist the impulse to buy it but last Sunday I succumbed. I bought it for only fifty rupees which seemed to me to be peanuts for the beautiful copy I got.
But it did not take me long to decide on the second find. In a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees I saw Anita Desai’s ‘Bye Bye Blackbird.’ It was a nice copy which had all pages intact and unblemished. I did not need any reason not to pick it up.
My last find wasn’t at Abids but at Chikkadpally. I found ‘the Jaguar’s Smile’ by Salman Rushdie. This was a travelogue (about his journey to Nicaragua) something which I cannot resist buying and so I bought it paying only thirty rupees for it. It said ‘First Publication’ on the cover and when I looked inside I saw that it was published in 1987. I wonder if First Publication is the same as First Edition.
Another curious coincidence of the day’s haul was that ‘All the King’s Men’ had won the Pulitzer Prize and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ had won the Sahitya Akademi Award.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 10-05-2015)

I wouldn’t mind if I was told Abids would be the only place where I would be allowed to buy books. At Abids there are so many books that every Sunday I keep finding new writers. Last Sunday I came across a book by another writer whose name I faintly remember reading somewhere. The writer was Andre Brink and the book was ‘Imaginings of Sand’ that I got for fifty rupees.
The next find was not a book but the July-September 2014 issue of IQ (The Indian Quarterly) a classy magazine brought by the Mahindras that I hadn’t seen before. It was a thick, large magazine with high quality, glossy paper. Even the articles and photographs appeared high quality. I read a fantastic poem about poets titled ‘Bardic Stuff’ by Manohar Shetty. The essay by Amitava Kumar on writer Akhil Sharma (Family Life) was very good. I wonder why on earth this magazine is not available in Hyderabad. By the way, its price is 200 but I got it for thirty rupees at Abids. I wish I could find an older issue that was on writing.
Another find was ‘Show Me A Hero’ by Aditya Sudarshan. Aditya Sudarshan is a young writer who has attracted a lot of attention with his elegant writing. I’ve read two of the three novels he has written so far- The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi’ which is his latest novel and ‘A Nice Quiet Holiday’ which is his first novel. I had been looking for his second novel and finally I found it at Abids last Sunday. Incidentally, it was an article by Aditya Sudarshan in The Hindu’s “The Literary Review’ that I learnt about Arun Joshi and his novels.
On the way home, I stopped at the seller near RTC Cross Roads. The building at the corner was being demolished to make way for the Metro but the seller displayed his books amidst the rubble. I found a decent copy of ‘Aspects of the Novel’ by EM Forster. I already have two copies of this book at home but this copy looked better than the ones I had. Moreover, it was in a twenty-rupee heap so I picked it up without a second thought.

Friday, May 08, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 08-05-2015)

Being in Hyderabad, in May, is like being in hell. Being outdoors, of course, is actually hell. I am lucky mine is a desk job which means I am never outdoors during the day. My job isn’t anything that requires me to be outdoors on working days. It would take a lot to persuade me to step out of the office during the day in the summer.

However, on Sundays, nothing can prevent me from going out in the hot sun. I actually look forward to step outdoors even if the temperature is close to 40 degrees. The thing is Sundays don’t feel the same to me if I do not go to Abids and look for books on the pavements. I had picked up close to fifteen books on my recent visits to Bengaluru and Goa and thought I would take it easy at Abids this Sunday. But when there are good titles lying around, it is impossible to resist buying them so I ended up buying just one book at Abids last Sunday.
Sometimes I pick up books based on the names of the authors alone. One such author whose name I found musical and unusual was Lisa St Aubin de Teran. I had picked up her ‘The Slow Train to Milan’ sometime last year or so. Though I haven’t read this first book of de Teran I picked up I read ‘Keepers of the House’ that I found at Abids quite recently. She is a wonderful writer and when I found ‘Memory Maps’ last Sunday at Abids I had to pick it up. It was a memoir, a genre I do not miss buying especially if they are by writers I like. I got the book for fifty rupees.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Haul at Goa

Last Thursday until I read the papers in the evening I did not realize it was World Book Day. Normally reading the papers is the first thing I do in the morning like many others. But if you are holidaying in Goa then it becomes the last thing one does before going to bed. I realized it was quite a coincidence that earlier in the day I had picked up eight books in the second hand sections of two of Goa’s bookstores. Adding another two titles that I picked up in another store the next day the total haul of books I made at Goa was a jaw-dropping and wallet-emptying ten books. It was the highlight of my four day Goa trip bringing back two titles of poetry, three titles of fiction, three non-fiction titles, one short story collection and one travel title.
On my last trip to Goa sometime in 2013, I had managed to find a couple of second hand books at Broadway located in Candolim where we had stayed. On this trip too we were in Candolim so Broadway was my first target. I went straight to the second hand books section where the walls were lined with shelves crammed with hundreds of titles. There were shelves with books for 100 rupees and some shelves with books for fifty rupees. Without wasting time I began with the 100 rupee shelves. I scanned the rows and rows of titles eagerly expecting to find something interesting. My first find was ‘Love and Summer’ by William Trevor. I do not remember where I first read about William Trevor but after I read his ‘Felicia’s Journey’ that I found somewhere I realized he was a writer one wouldn’t want to miss reading.
The next find was ‘Where I Was From’ by Joan Didion about whom I do not have to say anything more other than that it would be a dumb guy who wouldn’t pick a Didion title after reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem, White Album, The Year of Magical Thinking etc all of which I have and read a few times already. I want to begin reading ‘Where I Was From’ as soon as I find the time. That this title was in the hundred rupee shelf came as a pleasant surprise.
In another hundred rupee shelf I saw ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ by Friedrich Nietzsche which was a Penguin title. I took a long time to decide whether to buy it or not. I have read titles in all genres-poetry, crime fiction, autobiography, even self-help, writing, but I haven’t had the courage to pick up a title of Philosophy. I am not someone with enough brains to grasp what all these philosophers have to say about life, death, suffering, and such depressing subjects. However, I thought it was a title I wouldn’t find anywhere again and after resolving to read this book one page a day I bought it.
I thought I’d find at least a couple of titles in the fifty rupee shelves but unfortunately I was able to find only one title good enough to buy. When I saw the title of the next book I found I felt one book was enough. It was another William Trevor title, this time a collection of short stories. It was ‘The News from Ireland’ which has the following twelve stories: The News from Ireland, On the Zattere, Lunch in Winter, The Property of Colette Nervi, Running Away, Cocktails at Doney’s, Bodily Secrets, Virgins, Her Mother’s Daughter, Music, Two More Gallants, The Wedding in the Garden. Incidentally, on my recent trip which was to Bengaluru, I had found ‘Elizabeth Alone’ by William Trevor. With these two Trevor titles that I found at Goa my collection of William Trevor titles goes up to six.

Feeling very upbeat about this haul of four books at Broadway I was able to find out where Literati was located. Before coming to Goa I had googled for second hand bookstores in Goa and learnt about Broadway, and Literati in Candolim, and Lotus Eaters in Anjuna. Literati was quite close by. I was able to locate it easily enough and after checking out the second hand book collection which was displayed in a small room I decided to return and look closely after having lunch. It is never a good idea to take along someone who doesn’t read books to a bookstore especially if you are on a vacation. So I had lunch with my friend, dropped him in the hotel to sleep off the heavy lunch, and returned to Literati.

‘Literati’ is part of a quaint house in the middle of a vast compound filled with greenery. It was unlike any bookstore that I had visited so far. I did not bother much about the new books section that filled an entire room that was quite large with sofas laid around a table in the middle. One could perhaps sit on the sofas and browse the books one intends to buy. It had the atmosphere of a cozy, homely bookstore and I loved it the moment I stepped inside.
In an adjoining room that was smaller there were scores of books, small and large, almost brand new to tattered volumes that looked like they were printed sometime in the 1900s. At first glance it looked like I wouldn’t find anything interesting. As usual, I was wrong. I do not know why but of late I have learnt not to let go of any collection of poetry I come across, especially if it is by an Indian poet belonging to an earlier generation. Limited though my knowledge is I think the 60’s and 70’s was the time when the best poetry was created in the country by the likes of Jayanta Mahapatra, Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawala, Gieve Patel, and others. So when I saw this unusually sized copy of ‘The False Start’ by Jayanta Mahapatra I knew I had to buy it at any price. I was shocked when I learnt its price but more about the prices later.
The cover of ‘The False Start’ looked old, faded, with light stains on it, and the inside pages too had faded to a creamy yellow and if one was dumb then he would have found it appealing and tossed it aside. However, I decided to buy it especially after I read one of the poems titled ‘Poem for Angela Elston’ that was haunting. In all this collection had more than forty poems. To my luck, immediately below this volume was another collection of poems with a striking cover with a sun on it. This turned out to be ‘A Summer of Tigers’ by Keki N Daruwalla.
After I found these two collections of poetry I realized that this was a treasure trove that would yield more gems if I looked carefully. Sure enough I found another little gem. Even before I could look at the bright red cover I knew it was ‘Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader’ by Anne Fadiman. I knew it because I have a copy at home that occupies the pride of place on a shelf that not many get to see because the bookshelf in my bedroom. I had found this copy at Best Books in Hyderabad, a few years ago for just seventy five rupees. This find created an unusual excitement in me and I scanned the books eagerly like a greedy person looking for treasure. I spotted ‘Venice’ by Jan Morris, and added it to my pile of books that I managed to find at Literati.
On the wall was pasted a paper which was a sort of notice that said that all paperbacks in the second hand book section were uniformly priced at fifty rupees and all hardcovers were priced at 150 rupees. It meant that I had to pay only fifty rupees for the Anne Fadiman and Jan Morris title. It was a bargain. When it came to the Keki Daruwalla title which was a hardback the nice girl at the counter told the guy doing the billing to bring down the price to 100 first and then to seventy five. I was surprised and I hadn’t even told them I was from Hyderabad. When they said the Jayanta Mahapatra was mine for only ten rupees I realized why the Goans were such wonderful people. I do not think one could find ‘The False Start’ by Jayanta Mahapatra who is one of the greatest names in Indian English poetry, anywhere which makes it a rare book. I was so pleased with this find and the price at which I got all four books that I nominate ‘Literati’ in Goa as one of the best bookstores in the country. However, I learnt that The Lotus Eaters at Anjuna was supposed to have closed down so I did not bother to check it out.

Later in the evening I dropped in at ‘The Gift House’ which had a couple of bookshelves of used books. I found Rose Tremain’s ‘The Swimming Pool Season’ and Jonathan Coe’s ‘The Rain Before It Falls’ both which I got for hundred rupees each. Adding these two titles the total haul I made at Goa was a jaw dropping ten books. It was the highlight of my four-day trip to Goa.