Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 19-04-2015)

The Sunday before last Sunday though I was in Bengaluru I wished I were in Hyderabad since I would be missing my Sunday visit to Abids. Even if I was in Hyderabad I would not have been able to go to Abids since, I learnt later, the heavens poured from the sky all Sunday in Hyderabad. I was glad I had picked up the five books at Bookworm and Blossoms the previous evening.
However last Sunday I could go to Abids. It has become such a habit that I do not feel the same if I haven’t been to Abids. The last time I was in Abids I noticed that there was fresh stock and I could find some good titles including William Saroyan’s ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze’ that I got dirt cheap. This Sunday I found another collection of short stories by Saroyan. I found ‘Little Children’ that I got for thirty rupees. This collection has seventeen stories: Laughing Sam; The Sunday Zeppelin; Corduroy Pants; The Coldest Winter Since 1854; O Higher Accountancy, O Traffic Management; The Only Guy in Town; The First Day of School; The Man Who Got Fat; Around the World with General Grant; The Messenger; Many Miles Per Hour; The World’s Champion Elevator Operator; The Mexicans
This is the fourth William Saroyan title I have with me. A long ago I had found ‘Here Comes There Goes, You Know Who’ and sometime recently I found ‘My Name is Aram’ that I haven’t got around to reading. However I read one story (Laughing Sam) in the collection I found on Sunday. I plan to read the rest of the stories one a day.
I have about four or five books related to Hollywood. I have Pauline Kael’s ‘I Lost It All at the Movies,’ Syd Field’s ‘Going to the Movies,’ Manny Farber’s ‘Negative Space,’ and Barry Norman’s ‘And Why Not’ The next find was another Hollywood book that I found in a heap of almost brand new books selling for fifty rupees. I picked up Larry McMurtry’s ‘Film Flam’ which is a collection of essays on Hollywood. I noticed that many of the twenty one essays in it were related to screenwriting that somehow I like to read about.

I found in another heap of books selling for twenty rupees I found Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ that I bought. Srikant took it saying he wanted to read it first so I let him.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Trips- Trip No. 1- In and Out of Bengaluru in 48 Hours

After a very long time the travel stars in my life shone briefly enough to let me go on a short trip to Bengaluru. My last visit to Bengaluru was sometime in 2013 I guess. Though Bengaluru has many charms the chief attraction it holds for me is the bunch of bookstores on MG Road where I have found many good titles on earlier visits. On my previous visit to Bengaluru I spent hours browsing in Blossoms, Select, Bookworms, and another store whose name I cannot recollect now and ended up buying about a dozen titles. It is enough to make me wish, almost pray, for a chance to visit the city. Last week this wish was granted when Hari asked me if I would come along in his car to Bengaluru.

After more than an eight-hour drive, driving at a sedate 80 kmph which Hari maintained, and with breaks for breakfast and lunch, we reached Bengaluru at around four in the afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny enough to put anyone in a good mood. However just before we reached Bengaluru I got some news on the phone that took all the excitement out of the trip. Later it improved a little after I went straight to the bookstores on MG Road and hauled in five books.

After picking up a book at Bookworm and before visiting Blossoms I sat in the India Coffee House and had a coffee and leafed through ‘Hunters in the Snow’. The coffee was nice but it did nothing to lift my moods that were down after I got the phone call. After spending a few minutes in Blossoms I noticed it was raining outside which further dampened my moods. I looked at the thousands of titles on the shelves with a desultoriness I do not usually experience in a bookstore. Even in that dark mood I managed to find a few titles worth buying. With the rain showing no sign of abating I realized that I wouldn’t be able to visit Select and the other store after I was finished at Blossoms. I decided to spend all the time at Blossoms and increase my chances of finding more books and so stayed put there. I found a few more titles and decided I had enough.

Clutching the precious haul of five books I stood near MG Road metro station waiting for Hari. Afterwards we waited in vain for a pre-paid autorickshaw. After a long wait we got one and got back to the hotel. It was still raining and it did not look like it would stop until the morning.

However it did not rain the next day. The next day, a Sunday, we decided to have ‘benne dosa’ at MTR which wasn’t very far from where we were staying. After a short wait outside, we were led to a table which we had to share with four other men. The waiter took a long time to appear. We had to sit for an even longer period for him to bring our order. There was no ‘benne dosa’ waiting for us at MTR. For the first time in my life I ate idli with the ‘saag’ that is normally eaten with puris. At least, it is eaten that way in Hyderabad. We were told that all the sambar in MTR is finished by eight in the morning and anyone who comes after eight is condemned to eat his idli/dosa/wada without sambar. So we had the dosa we ordered without the sambar which is like eating biryani without the salan. However we ended up eating ‘Chandrahaara’ which is a sweet dish that we ordered after the voluble Marwari guys sharing our table told us that it was available only on Sundays. It was wonderful and though we couldn’t have ‘benne dosa’ I was glad to have tasted ‘Chandrahaara’ which I plan to have on my next visit to Bengaluru.

On the way back we stopped at Anantapur for lunch. Luckily, we could locate the hotel (Sanman) where I had eaten lunch on a previous official trip sometime in 2006. We had ‘olige’ and jowar roti which are the local specialties. The lunch at Anantapur made the detour from the National highway worth it. After a short distance we came upon a crowd of onlookers, people from cars, trucks etc who got down to take a look at something on the road. It wasn’t difficult to guess that there had been an accident that had taken place only a few minutes earlier. From the expressions on the faces of the people returning back to their cars etc I knew it was a fatal accident and that someone had died. As we drove past slowly I saw the body of a man lying on the ground, a pool of blood under his head. Beside the body was an overturned SUV and a short distance away we saw another badly dented car with the inmates checking under the hood. The sight of the body put us in a grim mood and we drove quite slowly for a while.
Later we got caught in high winds that rocked the car a little so we took shelter in a Reliance outlet for a while until the wind had died down. Later we saw the hail, marble sized pieces of ice that lined the road. I wondered if the body that we saw had been covered or was still lying in the rain. But it did not deter me from doing something risky. Hari took a break from the driving and I took over. Despite being told not to go over 80 kmph I pushed the Hyundai i10 beyond 100 kmph. There were too many cars overtaking us and there was one whose driver gave me a contemptuous glance. I wanted to overtake him at least once and that made me go too fast. But just when I was thinking that I was doing great I heard a rattling sound coming from the front and felt the car wobble a bit. Luckily I was able to bring the car to a stop. The front right tyre was shredded to strips. The tyre had burst on the newly laid BT road. When I touched the tyre it was very hot.

We managed to change the tyre without getting swiped by the trucks and cars that sped past at great speed. We made it to Hyderabad in time to have dinner at home. It was such a brief trip I wondered the next morning if I had really made it to Bengaluru. But the sight of the book haul, the dull ache in the arms, and the memory of the taste of the ‘Chandrahaara’ at MTR that seemed to linger in the mouth confirmed that it was a real trip.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Bengaluru Haul

Though Bengaluru has many charms the chief attraction it holds for me is the bunch of bookstores on MG Road where I have found many titles on previous visits. On a previous visit to Bengaluru I spent hours browsing in Blossoms, Select, Bookworms, and another store whose name I cannot recollect now and ended up buying about a dozen titles. Last week I was again in Bengaluru after driving down from Hyderabad on Saturday morning. My sole purpose of this visit was to buy books.
Later after we reached Bengaluru late in the afternoon and after checking into a hotel, I went straight to Select first where I found ‘Hunters in the Snow’ by Tobias Wolff. I already have his ‘This Boy’s Life’ with me that I had long ago picked up at Abids on a whim. It was a memoir of his childhood but ‘Hunters in the Snow’ is a short story collection. I was glad I found it but I couldn’t buy a title by Jerzy Kosinski that I kept aside hoping to pick it up on the way home after visiting Blossoms.
Before visiting Blossoms I sat in the India Coffee House and had a coffee and leafed through ‘Hunters in the Snow.’ The coffee was nice but it did nothing to lift my moods that were down after I got a phone call just before we entered Bengaluru. After spending a few minutes in Blossoms I noticed it was raining outside which further dampened my moods. I looked at the thousands of titles on the shelves with a desultoriness I do not usually experience in a bookstore. Even in that dark mood I managed to find a few titles worth buying. The first book I picked up was Gertrude Stein’s ‘How to Write’ which appears to be a tough read from what I gathered after I glanced at a few pages at random.
With the rain showing no sign of abating I realized that I wouldn’t be able to visit Select and the other store after I was finished at Blossoms. I decided to spend all the time at Blossoms and increase my chances of finding more books and so stayed put there. My next find was ‘Hopes and Impediments’, a collection of essays by Chinua Achebe. I’ll buy anything by Chinua Achebe. I felt lucky finding this title which I got for Rs 130.
My next buy was a title by yet another writer whose writing makes me buy everything he has written so far. I found ‘Elizabeth Alone’ by William Trevor which is the third William Trevor title I have after ‘Felicia’s Journey’ and ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ that I found sometime last year.
Though I already own ‘Dave Barry’s History of the Millenium So Far’ by Dave Barry, I bought a second copy that I saw at Blossoms because I wanted to come out of my gloom and nothing makes me laugh hard than books by the one and only Dave Barry. I returned from Bengaluru with these titles, feeling glad that my trip to Bengaluru was fruitful.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 05-04-2005)

Once in a while, maybe every two months or so, I land a big haul of books at Abids. I have no idea why it happens but I seem to find several good titles, one after the other, on some Sundays. Last Sunday was one such day when I ended up with a grand haul of nine books. To top this haul I was also gifted a book which makes it a total of ten books. This was the first major haul in this year and I am happy at the variety of titles I was able to gather.
The Sunday before I had missed picking up Sandor Marai’s ‘Casanova in Balzano’ that I saw in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees only. The first thing I did on reaching Abids was rush towards that heap. Incredibly enough, the book was on the very top with the dark red cover standing out. I almost pounced on it as if afraid someone else would make a grab for the book. This was the first book of the extra-large haul.
A few minutes after I picked up Sandor Marai I got a call from Jai that he had come to Abids. We met at our usual chai joint where we usually spend about half hour drinking chai and catching up on the events of the week. When Jai took out a title and gave it to me I was surprised. It was OV Vijayan’s ‘The Legends of Khasak’ and a brand new copy at that. I had read so much about it that I was glad at last it came into my hands. Afterwards we began our search.
It wasn’t very long before I found my first title. It was a crime title, ‘Gallows View’ by Peter Robinson which I picked up on Jai’s recommendation. I hadn’t heard of this author but I had confidence in Jai’s choice so I picked it up since the price too was just twenty rupees.
The next find was another copy of ‘Get Shorty’ by Elmore Leonard that I got for only twenty rupees. The copy was in very good condition and since it was one of those titles I hate to leave behind I picked it up. I have a copy with the same cover with me that I had found long back. I must have picked up at least a dozen copies of this title that I gave away to friends. In the same heap I found Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Cup of Fury’ that wasn’t in a good condition because the spine was discolored. However the title sounded interesting and it seemed to be some kind of memoir of drinking.
Onwards we went looking at the titles laid out on the pavement. Sometimes there is a treasure of new titles and sometimes many old titles pervade. I saw a faded copy of William Saroyan’s ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.’ It looked like one of those copies published sometime in the 1920’s and though this copy too was not exactly in a pristine condition I bought it. William Saroyan is a master story teller famous for his short stories. These are the twenty five stories in it: Seventy Thousand Assyrians; Snake; Love, Death, Sacrifice and So Forth; ards; And Man; Seventeen; Laughter; War; Harry; A Curved Line; Big Valle1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8; The Earth, Day, Night, Self; The Man With the French Post C y Vineyard; A Cold Day; The Big Tree Coming; Dear Greta Garbo; The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze; Among the Lost; Three Stories; Aspirin is a Member of the NRA, Sleep in the Unheavenly Peace; Fight Your Own Power; Common Prayer; The Shepherd’s Daughter; Myself Upon the Earth.
A couple of weeks ago I had found an old copy of a collection of short stories titled ‘The Love Letter and Other Stories’ by Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer, the noted Malayam writer. It was an English translation of his short stories and the title was brought out by Sangam Books, based in, intriguingly enough, Hyderabad. On Sunday along with another copy of this same title I saw another collection of short stories but by a different writer. It was ‘Night & Other Stories’ by Abdulla Hussein and this book too was by Sangam Books. I had not heard of Abdulla Hussein before but I was interested in reading his short stories so I bought it for the twenty rupees that the seller wanted.
Later I read that Abdullah Hussein is the pen name of Muhammad Khan born in 1931, and in the early sixties wrote Udaas Naslain (Sad Generation) his first novel which was considered among the best written in Urdu and also won the Adamjee Prize for Literature. ‘Bagh’ was his second novel. Abdullah Hussein is equally well known for his short stories and novelettes. I was glad to have found this title by this wonderful writer. ‘Night & Other Stories’ actually has only three stories in all. ‘Night,’ ‘The Little Brook,’ and ‘The Sea’ which take up the 170 pages. These were translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon. Whatever, I want to begin reading these stories very soon.

Then, as if icing on the cake, at the end of the trip to Abids, at Chikkadpally, on the way I found three Tin Tin titles-‘Tintin in Tibet,’ ‘Tintin and the Picaros,’ and ‘Cigars of the Pharaoh’. I got these three almost brand new copies for fifty rupees each. This was a lucky find.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 29-03-2015)

When I came across the book ‘Conversations in Bolzano’ by Sándor Márai at Abids last Sunday I couldn’t immediately recollect where I had read the name recently. I wondered whether to buy it or not since I vaguely felt that I must be imagining having read the name. So I did not buy the book right away and left with a vague uneasiness that I was making a mistake. Later, after I got home I checked a book I had finished reading recently. It was JM Coetzee’s ‘Inner Workings-Essays 2000-2005’ and after I looked in the contents page I saw the name Sándor Márai. Coetzee had written a twenty page piece on Sándor Márai and his books including the one I missed buying at Abids. I did not regret much because I realized that there might be people in Hyderabad who may have read Sándor Márai’s books and in fact might be looking for his books but certainly they won’t be the sort to look for them at Abids. So I decided the book won’t go anywhere and that I would pick it up next Sunday.

Once again, in another coincidence, I came across another name I had read recently. Quite coincidentally I had been reading John Braine’s ‘Writing a Novel’ in which he mentioned Norman Podhoretz’s ‘Making It.’ I was pleasantly surprised when I saw ‘Making It’ at Abids and grabbed it without a second thought. This was one of the rare occasions when I found a title I had just read about somewhere. I got the book for fifty rupees which is not a very steep price for a title like this. ‘Making It’ joins several such memoirs on writing and publishing that I have managed to find over the years.
Another title I found was by one of the country’s most humorous writer- Sidin Vadukut. I already have all the four titles he has written including the three Dork titles. Last Sunday I found ‘God Save the Dork’, the second in the Dork series, a good copy I couldn’t resist buying because it was too damn cheap. The seller kept it in a heap of books being sold for only ten rupees. I don’t understand how the book found its way into that heap but I couldn’t resist buying it.

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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Small Achievement

This blog is at No. 12 on the list of 'Top 15 Book Blogs in India' put out on Baggout.com, an online shopping portal.

Here's the link: blog.baggout.com/2015/02/26/top-15-book-blogs-india/

I think it is a fluke and not much to crow about. (I did crow about it on FB, though) However, I realize that it is almost eight years since I started this blog and now someone else other than my friends and family has at last noticed it. Feels good.