Friday, December 09, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 27-11-2016)


It sounds too good to be true but almost every Sunday I return home from the pavement book bazaar at Abids with at least one gem. There seems to be no end to the treasures one can find on the pavements at Abids where the booksellers display their wares. The Sunday before last (on 27-11-2016) I found another wonderful title, a collection of short stories, as it happens.

Since the past few Sundays I am finding at least one good short story collection. A couple of Sundays earlier I had found Alan Paton’s ‘Debbie Go Home.’ On the first Sunday of last month I had found ‘Waves’ by Sundara Ramaswamy. The Sunday before last I found a story collection by an author I had been quite eagerly searching for since a long time. I haven’t come across a single title by Katherine Mansfield so far and I was determined that I’d dig out at least one book by her either at Abids or in one of the half a dozen second hand bookstores in Hyderabad.
So I found what I was searching for. I came across an ancient copy of ‘The Garden Party’ by Katherine Mansfield. It was a Penguin title printed in 1958. It has the following fifteen stories: At the Bay; The Garden Party; The Daughters of the Late Colonel; Mr and Mrs Dove; The Young Girl; Life of Ma Parker; Marriage a la Mode; The Voyage; Miss Brill; Her First Ball; The Singing Lesson; The Stranger; Bank Holiday; An Ideal Family; The Lady’s Maid. I got this book quite cheap, just forty rupees.
Another find was a title I had read somewhere and had added the title to my list of books to buy. It was ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield which I hadn’t expected to find at Abids. But it was at Abids that I found it. For once my bargaining skills were no use in the face of a stubborn seller who seemed to be new to Abids. I gave in and paid him the hundred rupees he asked for this slim title.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 20-11-2016)


The only way I learn about new authors and books is when someone mentions such writers and books in their own books, essays, or in reviews. Autobiographies by writers, and literary essays inevitably are gold mines for discovering new writers.

Sometime last week I began reading Alan Paton’s autobiography titled ‘Towards the Mountain.’ In it he mentions visiting Norway, the land of Knut Hamsun author of books like Pan, Victoria etc and who won the Nobel Prize. Paton wrote in a reverential tone about Knut Hamsun. I had read only once about Knut Hamsun somewhere else too but do not remember where. But I remember making a note of the name in one of my notebooks as a writer to watch out for.

Last Sunday at Abids I came across two titles by Knut Hamsun. But I picked up only one title and that was ‘Hunger’ that I got for fifty rupees. Later I felt I should have picked up the other title too. But I was glad I had picked up at least one Knut Hamsun title. I do not know when I will read it but when I do I hope I enjoy reading it.

The next book I found was a title by Alan Paton. Though I am yet to find his most famous title- Cry, Thy Beloved Country- that, curiously, I am unable to find at Abids. I found ‘Debbie Go Home’ that is a collection of ten short stories. In his autobiography- Towards the Mountain- he writes about some of the people he met while working in a reformatory, and how these characters became the basis for some of the short stories in ‘Debbie Go Home.’
It is quite rare to find a book on books, or on reading, or writing, at Abids. So when I find such a book it is an occasion to rejoice. My next find was a book that I almost missed spotting but somehow I saw it at the last moment. ‘The Wonderful World of Books’ edited by Alfred Stefferud contains seventy two articles under various headings such as Pleasures of Reading, Books are Friends, Reading More Effectively, Choosing and Using Books (which has an article called ‘Book Collecting’ by John T. Winterich) and also Writers and Publishers. Though it was published in 1953 it looks like an interesting read.

The other finds were another decent copy of Bruce Chatwin’s ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’ that I gave to a friend right after I found it. I found it in a heap of books and got it for only twenty rupees. The other find was a copy of ‘The Golden Guide to American Guns’ by Larry Koller. One reason I bought was the book appeared like an unusual book published in 1961. It had some good photographs of the classic guns of America. The other reason I bought it was different. I am working on a script that has something to do with a character knowing a lot about guns. I am unable to finish this script and I bought this book in the hope of kick-starting the script.

(Unable to upload photos of the book covers for some reason I am unable to comprehend)

The Sunday Haul (13-11-2016)

( once again I am unable to post the photos of the books)
Sometime ago, a couple of years back maybe, I had found J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Inner Workings’, a collection of 21 literary essays he wrote during 2000-2005. Not long after I bought it I read all the essays in it, one by one. They were lengthy essays on many big name writers analysing their writings with perception and insight. Much of what he wrote went above my head, I must confess. Of the twenty one writers I had no idea about several of them like Bruno Schulz, Hugo Claus, Robert Walser, and so on. However, Coetzee’s essays were so good that I wanted to read the books written by these writers. The only problem remained finding them since it is not usual to find books by writers like those I mentioned above anywhere in Hyderabad or even the country. Last Sunday at Abids I was in for another surprise.

I saw a book ‘Confessions of Zeno’ by Italo Svevo in a heap of books at Abids and when I picked up the book to take a closer look something clicked in my memory. I felt that I had read about this author somewhere but couldn’t remember where. I hesitated before buying it since it looked like a book I wouldn’t want to read whatever the blurbs on the back cover said. Ultimately I decided to buy it since it was coming cheap, at just thirty rupees. On come home I took out the copy of ‘Inner Workings’ and opened it only to find that the first essay in it was on Italo Svevo!

The copy I found was a translation of Beryl De Zoete. I read the essay in ‘Inner Workings’ once again and it seems there’s another translation done by someone called Beth Archer Brombert. I do not know if I will read ‘Confessions of Zeno’ but I have the satisfaction of finding a book by an author I had thought would be impossible to find in Hyderabad.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 06-11-2016)


This was one Sunday I had been waiting for since the long Dussehra-Diwali shopping season that began almost six weeks ago. Now that Diwali is over, at Abids all the regular stores were closed leaving the pavements and the shopfronts for the second hand booksellers. I was happy to see all the second hand booksellers at their usual places with all their books laid out on the pavements. With the booksellers present in full strength and with full stocks I expected to find some interesting titles and I wasn’t disappointed. I found four wonderful titles last Sunday at Abids.

Books published in the 1950-70’s hold a special fascination for me. I do not know if it is the quaint font they have or the simple covers I buy such titles even if I have never heard of the author. My first find last Sunday at Abids was one such book. I found a copy of ‘The Judge’ by Tarasankar Banerjee with an attractive cover that had a young woman with intense eyes on the cover. ‘The Judge’ is an English translation of the original in Bengali ( titled ‘Vicharak’) by Sudhansu Mohan Banerjee. It is a small book, smaller than a postcard in size with just a little over 100 pages that can be read in less than a couple of hours. Incidentally, I saw another copy of the same book with another seller who thought the book in my hand was from his stock.

Sometime back I bought Series I, II and III of ‘Contemporary Indian Short Stories’ of the Sahitya Akademi at Abids because one of them had a story by the Tamil writer Pudumai Pithan. I had read somewhere that he was a great short story writer. In Series II I read his story- Redemption- that was so simple and wonderfully written that I became an instant fan of Pudumai Pithan. I then resolved to read more Tamil writers if I found their translated works. The second find at Abids last Sunday turned out to be another wonderful find. I regret that I hadn’t been aware of many writers of Indian languages and hence missed a lot of wonderful fiction. But through luck and some sharp observation I am able to find wonderful translations of the works of some really great writers. My next find was one such book and it was ‘Waves’ by Sundara Ramaswamy. I faintly remember coming across this name somewhere. Anyway, ‘Waves’ is an anthology of fiction and poetry of Sundara Ramaswamy translated from Tamil by A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Gomathi Narayanan, and Lakshmi Holstrom who also edited the anthology. After I went home I read a story in it titled ‘A Day with My Father’ and I was struck by the beautiful manner in which the innocence of childhood is brought out.

One can find several copies of ‘Peyton Place’ by Grace Metalious at Abids but so far I haven’t come across a good copy. Either the cover was missing or the pages were loose in all the copies I saw but on Sunday I found a decent copy. I hadn’t read this supposedly controversial book and was looking for a good copy and so picked it up for thirty rupees. There were other titles, mostly Pans, which I should have sifted through thoroughly but somehow I did not. Next Sunday I will go through these copies carefully.

The last find was at Chikkadpally. Sometime recently I read an article in which authors listed out little known authors who did not receive the attention they deserved and I actually wrote down their names. Suguna Ramanathan, Reshma Aquil, Naiyer Masud were some of the names. In the beautiful copy of ‘Indian Literature’ Issue No. 248 of Nov-Dec 2008 I saw at Chikkadpally I found a story by one of the writers in this list-Naiyer Masud. The story was titled ‘Ganjefa: The Game of Cards’ and I picked up this issue that was a treasure of poems, stories, literary criticism, reviews and much more in its 250 pages. I got this wonderful issue of ‘Indian Literature for just thirty rupees.
(Due to some technical problem I could not upload the pictures of the books)

Friday, November 04, 2016

A Mid-week Haul


Last Sunday it was Diwali yet I went to Abids. There were very few sellers and I did not find anything worth picking up from the thousands of books laid out on the pavements. But last Tuesday I was on a day’s leave from work. While running some errands I found myself at Abids. The Best Book Centre has a branch in Abids and I decided to take a quick look at the shelves. Since I had not found anything at Abids I hoped to find something interesting in the store.

I find it difficult to return from a bookstore without buying at least one book. On Tuesday though I saw interesting titles they were not so interesting to make me buy them. Another reason why I desisted buying any title was the high prices. But then just as I was sweeping my glance over the titles in the last shelves near the exit my eyes fell on a Penguin title. Instantly I knew I had found something very interesting.

I’ve come across at least one copy of ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton at Abids every week and also see it in second hand bookstores. However, for some strange reason I haven’t felt like buying it though I was aware that it was a good title. Maybe I felt that it would be a depressing book and hence did not buy it all these days. It wasn’t ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ that I saw at the bookstore buy ‘Towards the Mountain’, the autobiography of Alan Paton.
Since I am a sucker for autobiographies and memoirs by writers, editors, publishers, movie directors and actors etc I did not want to be prevented from buying ‘Towards the Mountain’ by Alan Paton by the price written in pencil on the flyleaf. Though the price was 200 rupees I bought it since the book appeared much, much more worth than that just looking at the picture of Alan Paton on the cover.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 23-10-2016)


It turned out to be yet another lucky Sunday at Abids for me as I ended up with a nice haul. Since Diwali was just a week away it appeared unlikely that I’d find more booksellers on the pavements at Abids than had been there the previous Sunday since almost all the regular shops would be open. But the second hand booksellers were more or less at their usual places with only a couple of them setting up shop elsewhere. What marked this Sunday was the haul of four wonderful titles I found quite effortlessly.
Though I have managed to build a considerable collection of books on writing I owe it two titles for giving me the confidence to begin writing a novel. One is ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King and the other title is ‘The Summing Up’ by Somerset Maugham. I must have picked up about a dozen copies of these two titles over the past few years mostly at Abids. ‘The Summing Up’ opened my eyes to what it actually takes to be a writer, and it also taught me a lot about how and what writers think before they begin to write. It has had a huge influence on me. I think anyone who wants to be a writer must read ‘The Summing Up’ by Somerset Maugham before beginning to put pen to paper.

Anyway, last Sunday’s first find was a decent copy of ‘The Summing Up’ that I saw with a seller who I think is quite stupid because he likes to think that every title he has is worth a lot than what it really is. Surprisingly I managed to get this copy for just thirty rupees and the reason I think is that I was the first customer he had and usually those in the business of selling do not turn away a first customer.

It was a warm sunny morning last Sunday and as usual I sat with my friends, all of them considerably younger, in the café and talked for a long time about movies, books, and also potholes and the inordinately long time it was taking to repair them. After the chai and the talk we set out again like a pack of wolves going out on a hunt.
Autobiographies and memoirs, especially by writers and also those in the movie business, draw me like a magnet. Sometime last year, I had found Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Something Like an Autobiograpy’, his autobiography, obviously. This Sunday I spotted yet another autobiography by another big name in film- Ingmar Bergman. I spotted ‘The Magic Lantern’ on a shelf with a seller just outside the café we had stepped out of. I bought, without a second thought about the price which was a hundred and fifty rupees.
One VS Naipaul title that seemed elusive was ‘The Return of Eva Peron’ that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere since a long time. On Sunday I saw it with another seller on the Abids main road and asked for the price. I felt that the price was too high for Abids’ standards but too less for a Naipaul title but nevertheless I paid fifty rupees and took the book.
In a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees a book, and one that always contains some interesting finds I was surprised to find a copy of ‘The Ugliness of the Indian Male’ by Mukul Kesavan. I do not know how this title ended up in this heap but I decided to rescue it and added it to my haul. It has thirty seven essays on movies, reading, travel, and politics. A long time back I had found his ‘Secular Common Sense’ but haven’t read it. I hope to read these two titles one after the other very soon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 16-10-2016)


These days I am making my Sunday visits to the book bazaar at Abids without much expectation of landing a good haul. It is the festival season of Dasara and Diwali and with the regular shops being open even on Sundays the pavement book sellers aren’t at their usual places and also their stocks are also limited. However though I am returning from Abids with at least one title since the past few Sundays I set out for Abids out of sheer habit. Last Sunday too I thought since Diwali is another fortnight away the shops would be closed and the pavement sellers would be back at their usual places. Though it wasn’t so I managed to end up buying three good titles last Sunday.
The first find was ‘Tim’ by Colleen McCullough that I had been seeing since the past few Sundays. I come across numerous copies of Colleen McCullough’s best known title ‘Thornbirds’ though I haven’t gathered enough confidence to buy it because of its forbidding size and these days I am trying to keep clear of books that would take me at least a month to finish. However ‘Tim’ is a slim book and since I haven’t read any titles by this well-known Australian novelist I thought I’d make a beginning with it. It is a Pan title and I got it for thirty rupees.
There are a few titles about writing I must have picked up at least half a dozen copies of and one such title is ‘The Writing of One Novel’ by Irving Wallace. I must have given away three or four copies to people who have told me that they wanted to write. So I buy this title whenever I see a good copy of it. Last Sunday I found a decent enough copy of ‘The Writing of One Novel’ and bought it quite cheap for just thirty rupees.
Another title, a cookbook, I am unable to resist buying several copies is ‘Made in India’ by Kunal Vijayakar that is quite attractive to look at. Its size, the beautiful finish, and of course, the recipes makes it a good buy. Though I haven’t tried anything in the book I have picked up three copies so far. Last Sunday I found my fourth copy! With Diwali just a few days away from the next Sunday I do not think there would be as many sellers as there were this Sunday. But whatever I will be there next Sunday and every Sunday as long as there are the book sellers on the pavements of Abids.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 9-10-2016)

Due to a technical problem I couldn't post on Friday. Better late than never, hence posting today.
Sometimes I fail to understand why I choose to ignore obviously bestselling titles of which I see several copies at Abids, and instead pick up obscure titles by little known authors. Though these random finds mostly turn out to be quite good titles I have missed out picking up some really good titles due to this eccentricity of mine. I do not pick up such well known and obviously good reads unless I read their reviews or read those titles being praised by someone whose tastes I respect. Last Sunday I found one such title I had seen quite often but failed to buy until I read about it recently.

A long time ago, more than a decade maybe, on a hunch I picked up ‘A Divided Life’ by Bryan Forbes. Until that day I had no idea who Bryan Forbes was. I finished reading that wonderful autobiography a second time last week. In it, Forbes, who is a British film director, novelist mentions that he directed directed the movie based on ‘King Rat. I realized that I must have come across several copies of James Clavell’s ‘King Rat’ many times at Abids but hadn’t thought of buying it.

Last Sunday I saw a good copy of ‘King Rat’ by James Clavell that I got for a hundred rupees. If I had waited for another week or so I could have found a nice copy of this same title in one of those heaps of books that sell for twenty rupees. But last Sunday due to the Dasara festival there weren’t many sellers and not one of them had all their books on sale and were content to display only a few books. There wasn’t much to choose and pick.
In the introduction to ‘King Rat’ John Simpson wrote that James Clavell himself, who by then had begun to write screenplays in Hollywood, wrote the script for ‘King Rat’ the movie. There’s no mention of who directed the movie which is a bit puzzling. Anyway, I am glad I found a nice copy of ‘King Rat’ and also plan to be on the lookout for other titles by Clavell such as ‘Shogun’ and ‘Taipan.’

Friday, October 07, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 02-10-2016)


If I thought I was lucky the previous Sunday after I found my first Madhur Jaffrey cookbook then last Sunday I got luckier. Last Sunday I found another Madhur Jaffrey cookbook that was published even earlier than the one I found the previous Sunday. It was ‘A Taste of India’ by Madhur Jaffrey and published by Pan in 1985 which I got for just sixty rupees. It has state wise sections with a write up on a them followed by some recipes of the most well known dishes of each state. I was surprised to see that not the state but Hyderabad was also featured and more than half a dozen recipes of dishes except biryani. It has some really stunning colour photographs of some dishes by Christine Hanscomb. It looked like a collector’s item and I am glad I found this wonderful book.
The next find also happened to be another cookbook. In a heap of books being sold for twenty rupees near Bata I found a book with a bright yellow cover. It was ‘Punjabi Cooking’ with Premjit T. Gill. It has, as the title suggests, recipes of Punjabi dishes-vegetarian, non-vegetarian, desserts and such things. It is a no-frills book with the sort of font that was common in the eighties and a few line drawings. I liked the simple presentation and hence picked up the book.
In another twenty rupee heap of books I spotted a book with an intriguing cover. The book I spotted was ‘The Hi-Lo Country’ by Max Evans described as ‘one of the greatest Western writers of all time’ on the cover that also had a photograph of a scene from a movie of the same name by Stephen Frears. It seemed an interesting book and since I hadn’t heard of Max Evans I picked it up. I don’t know when I will read it but I hope to read it sometime this year.
On the way back home, at Chikkadpally, I found the book I had missed buying the previous Sunday. I got the copy of ‘Brunizem’ by Sujatha Bhatt published by Penguin. It is a collection of sixty poems in three sections: The First Disciple (18 poems), A Different History (20 poems), and Eurydice Speaks (22 poems). It was a recipient of the Commowealth Poetry Prize (Asia), it says on the cover. This is the 117th book I bought this year and it looks like I will end up buying about 150 books this year too what with three more months left for the year to end including the Hyderabad Book Fair that might be sometime in December.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 25-09-2016)


In the dismal, rain-soaked week that passed by in Hyderabad there was only one ray of sunshine-it did not rain on Sunday. Though the skies were overcast all day giving the impression that it might rain at any moment not a drop fell from morning till night. I had thought that the Sunday at Abids would be a wash out since it had rained quite heavily on Saturday in the evening and continued into the night. Luckily for me the rains took a break last Sunday.
The Sunday before last I had missed buying a couple of good titles I had seen at Chikkadpally. So last Sunday I decided to stop at Chikkadpally first before going to Abids. Luckily, the titles I wanted to pick up were still with the seller. I picked up ‘Inner Spaces- New Writing by Women Writers from Kerala’ that was published in 1993. It was in a good condition with a bright yellow cover that was very attractive. It has fifteen stories by the following writers: Lalitambika Antharjanam (The Admission of Guilt), Sarah Thomas (When Dreams Turn Live), Shobha Warrier (Granny), B. Saraswathy (The Fisherman), K. Saraswathi Amma (The Soil that Grows Diamonds), K.B. Sreedevi (The Stone Woman), M.D. Retnamma (The Cow), Rajalekshmy (In the Temple), Ashita (Incomplete Stops), Kamala Das (The Game of Chess), P. Vatsala (Chamundi’s Pit), P.R. Shyamala (The Guest Who Came in a Palanquin), Nalini Bakel (The Third Night), Manasi (The Sword of the Princess), Sarah Joseph (The Symphony of the Forest).
The other title was ‘The Lunar Visitations’ by Sudeep Sen which was a title I had read about a long time back. It is divided into six sections: Prologue (Eclipse), The Ceremony, The Lovers and the Moon, Nightscape in a Moonlit City, and Epilogue (The Triads) that have a total of thirty one poems. I was glad I had the sense to buy this title the second time I saw it. I got both these books for fifty rupees. But I couldn’t locate the third title which was another collection of poetry by Sujata Bhatt. The seller said he had it somewhere but wasn’t sure where. He looked for a long time but couldn’t locate it. He promised to find it and keep it aside for me to pick up on the way back. Ultimately he couldn’t find it when I returned from Abids.

At Abids I found three more books in addition to the two books I had picked up at Chikkadpally. Last Sunday too I was alone on the hunt for books as my friends did not turn up.
One author I had discovered quite by accident was Charles McCarry. This was in 2014 when I found three books by him within a span of a couple of months. Sometime in January, 2014 I came across ‘The Tears of Autumn’ that I picked up on a hunch. After reading it I wanted to find more books by McCarry. Luckily in April the same year I found ‘The Better Angels’ and two months later, in June, I found ‘The Miernik Dossier’ that I finished reading only recently. ‘The Tears of Autumn’ was one of the best books I read in 2014 and since then I’ve had an eye out for titles by Charles McCarry. So when I spotted ‘Second Sight’ at the bottom of a vertical stack of books I had it taken out. I got it for just thirty rupees.
I had heard of ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’ but wasn’t able to remember the author’s name. When I spotted ‘The Bridge in the Jungle’ and picked it up to have a closer look because it was a Penguin title, something which I don’t pass over, I read it was a book by B. Traven, author of ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre.’ What made me decide on buying this title, apart from it being a Penguin title, was what V.S. Pritchett wrote about this title on the back of the book. It said, “This is one of Traven’s quiet, profoundly intuitive and very frightening Mexican stories, in which a single incident… is expanded until it precipitates an indescribable atmosphere of primitive mystery, alarm and suspense.’
My collection of cookbooks is slowly expanding and is now big enough to fill a bookshelf. Though it is a modest collection it did not have a single title by one of the most popular names- Madhur Jaffrey. Last Sunday at last I found a Madhur Jaffrey title- ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook: Food for Family and Friends.’ Though it was published in 1989 it was in a very good condition. I got it for just fifty rupees that I paid to the seller as soon as he quoted the price. I was glad that last Sunday’s haul of five books included two volumes of poetry, a fiction title, a collection of stories, and a cookbook.