Friday, June 26, 2015

A Mid-week Haul

Last Sunday it was pure agony. I was confined at home all day because it was raining since the previous night. On Saturday night I had gone to sleep hoping the skies would clear up by morning so I could go to Abids. Unfortunately my hope did not stand a chance. I experience a kind of deprivation or withdrawal symptoms if I do not go to Abids on Sunday. I manage to get over that feeling by dropping in at a second hand bookstore but it doesn’t feel the same as looking at the books spread out on the pavement. Sometime last week I had dropped in at the Best Books branch at Abids where I saw a book of travel essays and one of which was by Moritz Thomsen. I did not buy it right away which is one fatal mistake I commit quite regularly. Yesterday when I dropped in at the store I couldn’t locate the book. It made me sick.

However, looking around at the books stacked from floor to ceiling in the cramped store I found a book that I had been looking for since quite a long time. I found ‘Fresh-Air Fiend’ by Paul Theroux that I had missed buying the first time I saw it ages ago. Since then I have had my eyes peeled for this book and at last I found it. It made me forget the travel collection I had missed buying. I was ready to spend any amount for this title but fortunately it was only less than two hundred rupees which, still, is quite a high price. But then prices of second hand books in Abids and in second hand book stores aren’t the same.

The copy of ‘Fresh-Air Fiend’ by Paul Theroux that I found was a beautiful copy with a blue cover and it looked quite new. The book is divided into eight parts with a total of more than fifty pieces, all of them related to travel, needless to say. This is a collection of his travel writings during the period 1985-2000. I am interested in reading the pieces in Part Six of the book which deals with Books of Travel- his and others’. I am terribly pleased with myself that I could find this book instead of the book I was looking for.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blogger in the news

I read therefor I am in the news. I list my five favorite books on books and writing here

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 14-06-2015)

After watching the heavy rains last Saturday I felt that the rain would continue on Sunday too. In fact, it rained until early in the morning on Sunday and for sometime it looked like I may have to skip the visit to Abids. I was secretly relieved that I would not have to go to Abids. In the past two weeks I had bought several books and I did not want to buy any more for a while. If I went to Abids I wouldn’t return empty handed. However, the sky cleared up by the time it was ready to go to Abids.
The first book I bought at Abids was ‘The Tennis Partner’ by Abraham Verghese that I bought for only twenty rupees. There were scores of copies stacked on the ground as if someone had decided to dump them all. Almost all the copies were in good condition and I was lucky I got a good copy cheap.
While at Goa in April I had been to a bookstore called Literati where in a room filled with second hand books I found a beautiful hardbound copy of ‘A Summer of Tigers’ by Keki N. Daruwala. I paid seventy five rupees for it since I thought I would not be able to get another copy of this rare title. However, last Sunday I came across another beautiful paperback copy that was almost new. The seller asked for only twenty rupees for it.
On the way back home, I stopped at Chikkadpally where I found two more books. I found ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ and also ‘Cat’s Cradle’ both by Kurt Vonnegut. The copies I found were in good condition and appeared almost new. Unlike the sellers at Abids the guys at Chikkadpally don’t bring down the price much. I had to pay hundred and fifty rupees for these two books.
At another seller at Chikkadpally I found ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ by Lajos Egri. I have a similar copy with me that I found years ago in a second hand bookstore in Hyderabad. I paid half of the two hundred rupees I had paid for my first copy. I returned home with this five book haul and spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging the books on the shelves at home to accommodate the latest arrivals.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 07-06-2015)

Three days after landing a great midweek haul at Best Books at Lakdikapul, I found three more books at Abids on Sunday. I found yet another Orient Paperbacks title with that sort of cover that they had sometime in the seventies. I am thinking of collecting these titles published in the sixties and seventies because there is something about these covers that’s appealing. The first book I found, the Orient Paperback title was a classic in Indian Writing in English. I had seen several copies of Raja Raj’s ‘The Serpent and the Rope’ but never could find a good enough copy to buy. Last Sunday I found a good copy of ‘The Serpent and the Rope’ by Raja Rao that had a quaint cover. Inside I saw that the print was in one of those fonts that suggest simplicity and elegance.
My second find was a title that I decided I would give to a friend. I found ‘The Penguin Book of Hymns’ edited by Ian Bradley that I thought would be an ideal gift for Daniel. After I took this home I saw that it had a hundred and fifty hymns including those I had only read about- Amazing Grace, and Lead Kindly Light. The book had a lengthy but interesting note about each Hymn- who wrote it, when, and such interesting details. I read that Lead Kindly Light was the second great hymn by John Henry Newman. It was interesting to read that Newman’s verses were a particular favorite of Queen Victoria and were read out to her as she lay dying in 1901. It gives one how deeply some verses/hymns/poems affect individuals. I will ask Daniel to let me keep the book for some time until I finish reading all the hymns.
The next find was a title by one of my favorite writers- Len Deighton. My collection of his titles has dwindled and so when I saw ‘Faith’ in a heap selling for only ten rupees I picked it up. I plan to rebuild my collection of Len Deighton titles, especially the trilogies- Game, Set, Match; Hook, Line, Sinker; and Faith, Hope, Charity. I see many Len Deighton titles at Abids all the time so it won’t be long before I have them all on my bookshelf.
Apart from these books, the really interesting finds were three volumes of some old Indian poetry magazines that I found at one place. I found ‘Indian Verse’ Vol 2, No. 3 of Summer 74 and Vol 3, No. 1 of Winter 1975. The third volume was Vol. 1 No. 1 of ‘Poetry’ edited by Niranjan Mohanty. In these three volumes were poems by some of the early poets in Indian writing in English such as Pritish Nandy, Nissim Ezekiel, Jayanta Mahapatra, Sitakanta Mohapatra, Shiv K. Kumar and many new names I haven’t heard before.

These three fragile volumes are perhaps reminders of how seriously poetry was taken in those times. I felt glad I found these books and these add to the collections of verse that I am unconsciously collecting these days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Midweek Haul

Sometime last week bored with the routine at the office I decided to take the day off and so stayed at home. I had some errands to run such as closing my bank account in United Bank of India and opening a new account in HDFC bank. I accomplished these tasks sooner than I thought and had half the day free with nothing to do. Whenever I have time on my hands I spend it in bookstores. I went to the Best Books branch in Lakdikapul after lunch and spent a couple of hours scouring the bookshelves for titles to buy.
To me, or to any true bibliophile, for that matter, there is nothing more exciting than discovering a good book by an author one hasn’t heard of before. Even after nearly twenty years of some serious book hunting during which time I must have bought a couple of thousand of books I have realized there are some Indian writers who wrote in the sixties and seventies that I don’t know about. It was only a while ago that I learnt about Arun Joshi from a newspaper article by Aditya Sudarshan. There are many more writers, who were, incidentally, published by Orient Paperbacks. I discovered one such writer.

When I saw ‘I Come As A Thief’ by Manoje Basu I picked it up. It had that look on the cover I have come to associate with Orient Paperbacks. On the cover it said it was a Sahitya Akademi Award winning novel. When I read the author’s note I discovered that it was an English translation of his Bengali novel ‘Nishikutumba.’ It was serialized in the Bengali weekly ‘Desh’ and had caused quite an uproar. I was glad I found this book.
I thought I was lucky when I found ‘I Come As A Thief’ by Manoje Basu but more was waiting for me. Underneath this title stacked in a heap I found a book I had been looking for since a long time. Though I had picked up a few copies of ‘The Apprentice’ by Arun Joshi my heart was set on finding the first edition. Last week I found it and was I thrilled to lay my hands on the beautiful copy. ‘The Apprentice’ by Arun Joshi was published by Orient Paperback in 1974. The typesetting was so quaint I was amused. The copy I found was in good condition and seemed to have belonged to one ‘Madana Mohan Mahapatra’ of Jeypore, Odisha whose stamp was on one of the pages.
Sometime back I had randomly picked up ‘The Wycherly Woman’ by Ross Macdonald in this same store. After I finished reading it I resolved to read all the titles by this writer. Back then I did not know that he was one of the ‘Holy Trinity of American Writers’ along with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. So when I came across three more titles by him I just grabbed them. I found ‘The Galton Case,’ ‘Trouble Follows Me,’ and ‘The Goodbye Look’ all by Ross Macdonald. I was more than thrilled to find these three books and am looking forward to start reading them.
However, this midweek haul set me back by four hundred rupees. I did not mind it since I had found some rare copies of books by two virtually unknown ( to me) Indian writers. With this haul of five books the total haul during this year goes up to eighty one books.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 31-05-2015)

Last Sunday it was the final Sunday of May. Another week and the monsoon would begin and hopefully, would bring rain that everyone seemed to be eagerly waiting for. I did not mind if the rain disrupted my visits to Abids on Sunday because I think the farmers need rain more than I need books. So last Sunday it was hot but not as hot as it had been the previous Sundays. Since I didn’t have to go to the office or didn’t have anything to do that kept me away from Abids I browsed to my heart’s content.
The first title I found was ‘Mist’ and ‘Creature of Darkness’ by MT Vasudevan Nair, another favorite writer of mine. It was a slim volume and in quite good condition. I hope to read the two novellas in this title sometime soon. Somehow I want to read more of Indian writing and finding this title is making me restless to read this famed writer at the earliest. By the way, I got this book for only twenty rupees.
Actually, the first find was a book I found in a heap with a seller in the lane where I park my bike. So far I have stayed clear of books for Eric Ambler and haven’t read anything by him. However, I have his autobiography ‘Here Lies Eric Ambler’ at home but I haven’t read it yet. I found ‘Cause for Alarm’ on the cover of which was Graham Greene’s statement about Ambler being ‘our greatest thriller writer.’ This praise was enough to make me buy this title. I got this book too for twenty rupees.
Later, in another heap of books selling for thirty rupees, I saw a book in a condition that would have put me off buying it. There were termite holes on the hardcover that ran all the way to the last page on the back. Normally I don’t even look at such copies but this was a different book. It was ‘Bright Book of Life; American Novelists and Storyteller from Hemingway to Mailer’ by Alfred Kazin. I don’t let go of books like this so despite its condition I bought this book hoping to know more how Hemingway, Mailer, and other American novelists worked on their craft. By the way, the title is taken from an interesting observation DH Lawrence made in an essay (?) titled ‘Why the Novel Matters’ and the observation is this:
‘And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog.
The novel is the one bright book of life.’

The final find was another interesting book. I found ‘Childhood Days’ by Satyajit Ray, the great man himself. Obviously it was a memoir and I was delighted to find this Penguin title in good condition. The seller asked for forty rupees for it which I paid without bargaining because I don’t come across these kinds of titles too often.