Friday, January 29, 2016

A Midweek Haul

The Sunday before the last Sunday by something I can only consider a miracle I got to visit the World Book Fair in New Delhi on the last day and also picked up six books. Last Sunday I left for Abids half eager and half-reluctant. As I had already picked up 17 books during the month I wanted to avoid adding more books that I inevitably buy at Abids. Fortunately I was able to avoid buying books though there was one title I now feel I should have bought. I had seen a nice copy of ‘Narcopolis’ by Jeet Thayil that I did not buy for some reason.

However, on Tuesday I was passing through the Sangeet circle and stopped at the make-shift second hand book stall at the place where once Sangeet theater stood. I thought I’d just look at the titles on the shelves just to satisfy my curiosity. But I ended up buying two books. Of late I have consciously begun to buy collections of short stories particularly those written by Indian writers, both in English as well as regional languages. At the World Book Fair in New Delhi one of the titles I had found was Bilal Tanweer’s ‘The Scatter Here is Too Great’ which is a collection of short stories. Last month at the Hyderabad Book Fair I had found a collection of short stories by Kalki Krishnamurthy.
At this make shift book stall near Sangeet I saw a collection of stories by Joginder Paul, a name I am not familiar with. These were English translations of the 17 stories originally in Urdu. Sukrita Paul Kumar and Naghma Zafir were the two translators in this fine collection published by National Book Trust. These were the seventeen stories: The Demon; Dera Baba Nanak; Back Lane; Green House; Ambush; Khodu Baba ka Maqbara; Without Graves; Harambe; Doves; The Spell; Looking Back; Dadiyan; The Migrant; The Dying Sun; Eighteen Adhyaye; Stick; A Flock of Birds.

A long time ago I had read ‘The Old Patagonian Express’ by Paul Theroux that I managed to find in the British Library. After a long search I found a hardcover copy of this title a couple of years back. I planned to read it again because it was a fascinating account of Paul Theroux’s journey through the Americas. I never did find the time to read this book a second time. I try to recommend it to people who ask me for suggestions. If I have spare copies of books that I want others to read I give it to them. This is one of the reasons why I buy multiple copies of the titles by authors I like.
I found a paper back copy of ‘The Old Patagonian Express’ by Paul Theroux in a shelf in this store near Sangeet. When the seller said he would give me both these books for a hundred rupees I bought them. TOPE was a good copy though the cover at the back had its edges torn away in an interesting pattern.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Sunday Haul at the World Book Fair, New Delhi

A couple of years ago I had visited Pragati Maidan for another book fair that was smaller. At that time too I had bought a few books in the second hand book stalls. At the World Book Fair I did not expect they would allow second hand book stalls but I found a couple of stalls selling old and rare books. There were also sellers offering books at bargain prices. The sheer number of stalls, small and big at the several halls took me by surprise. Not surprisingly, the venue was thronging with enormous crowds buying up books. Only a month ago I had been to the Hyderabad Book Fair and now I was at another book fair.

The day before, at Hyderabad, I had happened to meet a friend who was a voracious reader with a fine taste for books. She had told me that she had read Perumal Murugan’s ‘One Part Woman’ and said it was very good. In the cavernous stall that Penguin Random House had set up at the WBF it was so packed with visitors that it was difficult to even take a proper look at all the titles on display. Somehow I managed to quickly scan the titles on the shelves and was surprised to find ‘One Part Woman’ that I decided to buy. There was a twenty percent discount so I got it at a fairly decent price.
At one stall belonging to ‘Sangeeta Books’ there were old hardcover volumes of titles published in India in the thirties and forties maybe. There weren’t any title that I found interesting. On another shelf I saw paperbacks that seemed interesting. I was hoping I would be able to find a copy of Arun Joshi’s ‘The Survivors’ that was proving quite elusive. However, I did not find it here too but found an old copy of ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ by Thomas Merton. Then I found a book on Graham Greene by David Pryce-Jones that seemed interesting. I am currently reading ‘A Burnt Out Case’ by Graham Greene which made me buy this title in the Writers and Critics series. I got Thomas Merton’s book for a hundred rupees and paid fifty rupees for the book on Graham Greene.
In a few corners and narrow spaces scattered around in the halls I saw books stacked on a few shelves and also heaped on the ground. They were being sold at the rate of three titles for a hundred rupees and some books were being sold for hundred rupees. There were quite a few such sellers in almost all the hall I visited. All the books they had seemed to be brand new and everyone seemed to have almost the same titles. At one such seller I found a nice copy of ‘They Came Like Swallows’ by William Maxwell and ‘The Scatter Here is Too Great’ by Bilal Tanweer. I bought these copies for a hundred rupees each.
In another corner I saw heaps of hardcover books that seemed to be mostly autobiographies. One could pick up three books for hundred rupees. I was not interested in picking up hardcover books since my bag was already quite heavy. Nevertheless I wanted to see if there was anything interesting that I could find. I think there were more people buying these books in the corners than at the stalls where they seemed to mostly look. There was a crowd of youngsters squatting on the ground and going through heap of hardcovers on the floor. I managed to make my way into the crowd and was able to find a beautiful copy of ‘A Cook’s Tour’ by Anthony Bourdain. I got it for only fifty rupees.
It took my nearly four hours to visit most of the stalls in the halls that were located at quite a distance from each other. Going from one hall to another took up a lot of time. There were so many halls that I do not know if was able to visit all of them. I couldn’t find any more titles to buy for myself but I bought books for my kid and also for my nephews. At around four in the afternoon I decided to leave. It had been a long day and I felt tired. But I was glad I had managed to visit the World Book Fair at last and find half a dozen titles.
Back at my brother’s home I got to read the Sunday papers. In the Sunday magazine of The Hindu Jaya Bhattacharji Rose had written in her column that there seemed to be more crowds than usual at the WBF. I though her observation was absolutely on the mark. Being the last day of the fair many people seemed to have come to buy books. Only last month there was the annual Book Fair in Hyderabad and compared to WBF it seemed quite small.

2016 Trips: Trip No. 1- To New Delhi Once Again

The New Year showed how lucky I am when it comes to matters related to books. It had been turning out to be an impossible dream of mine of visiting the World Book Fair at New Delhi at least once. I had been dreaming about it since the past few years. Usually the World Book Fair is held sometime in February every year for about ten days I guess. This year somehow it was advanced to January and 17th January, a Sunday, was the last day of the WBF.

Last Saturday, i.e., 16th of January an unexpected chance opened up for me to go to New Delhi on urgent mission related to office work. A Public Interest Litigation on drought was coming up for hearing before the Supreme Court on Monday (18th Jan) and the Government advocate wanted an affidavit to be handed over him before the hearing at any cost. We had the affidavit ready but the question remained how to send it to New Delhi by Monday morning. I sensed an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and volunteered to travel to Delhi.

On Sunday morning I was on way to New Delhi on an early morning flight. As the plane took off I thanked my stars for aligning in such a way as to make one of my dreams come true. After landing at Delhi I rushed to the advocate’s office and handed over the affidavit. I was relieved when he told me that it was okay after he had read it. I had drafted it hurriedly and had got it approved by my boss the day before. I was told that Pragati Maidan, the venue of the WBF was quite close. It was almost noon so I decided to have an early lunch and rushed to Pragati Maidan and spent half a day browsing in the stalls. I bought a total of six books for myself and returned to my brother’s home to spend the night there. I was returning on Monday.

Compared to Hyderabad it was quite cold in New Delhi with the temperature somewhere around 10 degrees. I had come prepared but I found it difficult to ward off the chill. The next morning after a nice breakfast I left for the airport. My flight was at half past twelve and I reached the airport quite early. I spent more than an hour browsing in the airport stalls. There seem to be newer stalls every time I come to the IGI domestic terminal. However I couldn’t find a single bookstall anywhere which was quite surprising. I was back in Hyderabad by half past four and noticed that the weather was fantastic with a warm sun.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 10-01-2016)

On the first Sunday of 2016, which was the previous Sunday, I ended up with a haul of five books. Since it was the first haul of the year at Abids I did not mind that I had five books despite the promise I made to myself that I would limit myself to buying just one or two books every Sunday. I had made that promise to myself because at the end of 2015 I had bought more than 230 books which was a record. I had no intention of breaking that record and wanted to restrict myself as much as possible. But, once again I broke that promise because last Sunday I ended up buying six more books at Abids.
I do not remember if I have a copy of ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway but when I saw a beautiful and almost brand new copy of this same title I couldn’t resist buying it. The seller was someone who automatically reduced the price for me even before I could bargain because he knew I wouldn’t bargain with him. I got this book for only thirty rupees. It has the following eighteen stories: The Snows of Kilimanjaro; Up in Michigan; On the Quai at Smyrna; Indian Camp; The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife; The End of Something; The Three-day Blow; The Battler; A Very Short Story; Soldier’s Home; The Revolutionist; Mr and Mrs Eliot; Cat in the Rain; Out of Season; Cross-country Snow; My Old Man; Big Two-hearted River: Part I; and Big Two-hearted River Part II.
The second find was again with the same seller. After paying for the Ernest Hemingway book I spotted another slim book of poems. It was ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream and Other Poems’ by Wallace Stevens. This collection has eighty-two poems including ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ which I read was one of his well-known poems. One of the reasons I was glad I found this book was that the seller gave it to me for just thirty rupees. I think it is Wallace Stevens on the cover.
Sometime back I had found ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz’ by Mordecai Richler at Abids. I had picked up this book from a heap of books being sold cheap. Coincidentally in the same place and in the same heap I found another of his titles- ‘Broadsides- Reviews and Opinions.’ I picked up this book because I like Richler’s humor and this was a collection of nineteen articles. I got this book for thirty rupees only. The book was in good condition and appeared almost new.
The next find was a classic of Telugu literature. I had planned to read at least one Telugu novel last year too since I had not been keeping that promise since the past few years. One reason was that I couldn’t decide which book to read first. Also, I did not have many Telugu books but one book that I was looking for was ‘Kanyasulkam’ by Gurujada Apparao. I found this book at last at Abids last Sunday. This edition was published sometime in 1985 and had an introduction by the great poet Sri Sri. I got this book for a measly twenty rupees. I am certainly going to read this book this year.
Sometimes I blindly pick up titles published by Penguin knowing that it would be something good or else they wouldn’t have published it. One of the reasons I end up buying books by authors I hadn’t read about is the Penguin logo on the cover that convinces me to pay up for it. So when I saw a Penguin title ‘Sleep No More’ by George Sims I picked it up. I haven’t heard of George Sims but I am sure it would be a good book I told myself as I added it to the haul.
The last book I found last Sunday at Abids was an interesting one. It was ‘The Professor and the Madman’ by Simon Winchester, which, as it was mentioned on the cover, is ‘a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.’ It was something I would love to read. I had read about this book a long time and had forgotten about it convinced that I would never find it. However, last Sunday I not only found it I also bought it. It did not come cheap though, I had to pay eighty rupees for it.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 03-01-2016)

A week after the Hyderabad Book Fair ended and twenty four books later I thought of stopping going to Abids for a couple of weeks. But some habits are difficult to avoid even temporarily. So I made that familiar trip to Abids that I make every Sunday but with a resolve not to buy anything until I had read at least half a dozen of the two dozen books that I had picked up at the Book Fair.

However strong the resolve not to buy any more books might be it easily dissolves when I come across books by authors like Ross Macdonald. Ever since I came to learn about Ross Macdonald and his Lew Archer series of novels and also read a few titles like ‘The Instant Enemy,’ ‘The Ivory Grin,’ and ‘The Wycherly Woman’ I was hooked to his writing style. The previous Sunday I had seen four Ross Macdonald titles- The Galton Case, The Chill, The Moving Target, and The Underground Man. I had the first three titles with me except ‘The Underground Man’ that I wasn’t exactly looking for.

Sometime back I had purchased second hand copies of eight Ross Macdonald titles online. This lot of eight titles included three titles I saw at Abids. My desire to buy all the four titles was dampened by the seller who quoted an abnormally high price after he saw the gleam in my eye when I spotted the books. Fresh after shelling out nearly three thousand books for the two dozen titles that I had bought at the Book Fair only the week before I was not in a mood to spend on more books. So I had walked away reluctantly after an unsuccessful bout of bargaining with the seller who was in no mood to budge from the price he had quoted.
But last Sunday I decided it wasn’t such a high price after all and ended up buying all the four Ross Macdonald titles- The Galton Case, The Chill, The Moving Target, and The Underground Man that I kept and gave the rest of the first three titles to one of my younger brothers. I bought the four titles for forty rupees each which was considerably less than the seventy five rupees I spent on each of the titles I had bought online from Afzal of Matunga.
Another book that I found at Abids last Sunday was ‘Arab Gold’ by MT Vasudevan Nair and NP Mohamed. This is the second or third MT Vasudevan Nair title that I had found and I was glad to pick it up. It did not take me very long to decide to buy this book that had a picture of two golden coconut trees on the cover which was totally black.

So I began 2016 with another medium sized haul of five titles. I was glad that I found another Ross Macdonald title to add to my collection that it growing gradually. I don’t know how many books I will end up buying during the year but I not want to break the last year’s record of nearly 230 books bought.