Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sale Haul- 2

On my first visit to the Best Books sale of second hand books that took place sometime back at YMCA in Secunderabad I had come with a poor impression of it. I had thought it did not have a good collection and that it wasn’t worth a second visit since I found only two titles worth buying. I did not plan for a second visit and surprisingly managed to stay away from the sale for more than a couple of days.
However I became restless and wondered if I had made a mistake not looking at the titles in the RS 50 or Rs 250 for ten titles section which on first glace appeared to be full of worthless titles. On Tuesday which happened to be a holiday due to the GHMC election I decided to make a second visit to the sale. I ended up making one of the biggest hauls of the New Year with ten titles in my bag. On my second visit I made it a point to look at each and every title in the section I had merely glanced perfunctorily on my first visit. I think it was the smartest thing I did because I found some fantastic titles.

A couple of years ago someone had mentioned the name ‘Mavis Gallant’ and told me to look out for her short stories. Since then I had been looking for Mavis Gallant titles at Abids, at secondhand book-stores , book fairs, but couldn’t find a single title of hers. I had seen a story in a collection of short stories I had found recently but hadn’t come across her own collection anywhere. I was disappointed but hadn’t completely lost hope of ever finding a Mavis Gallant title. I knew, from experience, that someday I would find one.
That someday was the other Tuesday when I spotted ‘The Cost of Living’ by Mavis Gallant at the second- hand book sale at YMCA. I felt triumphant when I picked it up like I had found a rare gem. My joy was doubled when I found a second copy of the same title a few minutes later in the same section of books selling for fifty rupees each. After finding these two copies I decided to look carefully at the scores of titles by unknown authors. This careful search was rewarded when I found another fantastic title – ‘Open City’ by Teju Cole, a hardcover copy for just fifty rupees.
Finding these two titles lifted my spirits and I continued my title-by-title search. The table containing the cheap titles stretched quite long and there were literally hundreds of books to sift through. Once again my patient search was rewarded for I got lucky and found another title by another wonderful writer- Joan Didion. I found a copy of ‘After Henry’ and grabbed it.
A couple of years ago, on a mere hunch, I had picked up a collection of short stories by Jayne Anne Phillips titled ‘Fast Lanes’ that I somehow read soon after. After I read a few stories I realized I had discovered a fantastic writer. I was pleased that I had a good instinct for spotting wonderful writers. Later I found ‘Machine Dreams’ another short story collection by Jayne Anne Phillips that too was just wonderful. At the sale I saw another title by Jayne Anne Phillips- ‘Mother Kind’ which I discovered was a novel. Since anything written by Jayne Anne Phillips is worth reading I bought this book too.
Curiously my haul at the sale seemed to be mostly short story collections by writers I had only read about and couldn’t find so easily. After Mavis Gallant Lorrie Moore was another writer whose stories I wanted to read. In another terrific stroke of luck I found a beautiful copy of ‘Self Help’ by Lorrie Moore which is a short story collection with just nine stories including one called ‘How to Become a Writer.’
After buying ‘Devil on the Cross’ by Ngugi Wa Thiongo on a hunch at a second hand bookstore a couple of years ago I realized he was a contender for the Literature Nobel. I found another Ngugi title called ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ that wasn’t a novel or a short story collection but a memoir of his childhood. I found this book in the Rs 50 collection.
In keeping with my new found interest in all things culinary I am unable to resist cookbooks, memoirs by chefs and books on food and eating. I found a collection of essays on food and eating by writers that was titled ‘Not for Bread Alone’ that was edited by Daniel Halpern. Shortly after finding this title I saw a nice copy of ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain. I had given away the only copy I had so I bought this book.
Last month I had read that Easterine Kire had won The Hindu Prize for Fiction for her novel ‘When the River Sleeps’ made a mental note to look out for it or buy it sometime soon. Luckily I saw another title by Easterine Kire titled ‘Bitter Wormwood’ and I bought it. It might give me a taste of Kire’s writing. Since the organisers of the sale offered ten books for Rs 250 only from the shelf of books that were only Rs 50 each I was short of one title so I picked up Satya Saran’s ‘From Me to You’ that I happened to glance at. I was pleased that my haul of ten books cost me only 250 rupees which means that I paid just twenty five rupees for each of these wonderful titles.

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