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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 18-09-2016)

One of the advantages of going to Abids in the morning on Sundays is that one can be among the first to rummage through the pile of fresh stocks of books on the pavements even before anyone has got the chance to do so. The chances of finding good titles are high in the mornings than at any other time of the day and this is one reason why I usually browse for books at Abids in the morning. Sometimes when it is not possible to go in the morning I make it a point to go in the afternoon. Due to an event at my son’s college which I had to attend last Sunday I couldn’t be at Abids in the morning. But I went in the afternoon because my Sundays are not complete without visiting Abids even if it is for an hour or so.
Once again it was a solo hunt as my friends did not turn up. Mercifully it did not rain. The search resulted in just one find but it was a good find. It is not usual to find ‘faber and faber titles at Abids. I’ve found only a hand of ‘faber and faber titles during my more than two decades of book hunting at Abids. Last Sunday the title I found turned out to be an ff title. I saw Michael Dibdin’s ‘The Tryst’ with a black metallic cover that stood out in the heap of books with a seller. On the front cover was Ruth Rendell’s blurb that said “Tremendously exciting…. This is a novel both subtle and horrific” which was enough to make me pick up ‘The Tryst’ that I got very cheap. I paid just thirty rupees for it.

The previous Sunday I had missed picking up Bharati Mukherjee’s ‘Jasmine’ that I had seen at Chikkadpally and had decided that I would buy it this Sunday. But this Sunday I couldn’t locate it with the seller at Chikkadpally. However I saw other titles I now wish I had bought right away but did not. I will write about those titles that I missed buying if I find them next Sunday.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 11-9-2016)

Last Friday’s post was supposed to have begun differently. I had thought of writing about the weather first before writing about what I had found at Abids. I had thought that the weather was changing. There was something about the sunlight that made me think that winter was around the corner. It looked like it wouldn’t rain anymore and that thought lifted my moods. A day later, on Saturday it poured like anything all day. It appeared like the rain would continue the next day too. But luckily it stopped raining early on Sunday morning. It was cloudy but it did not look like it would rain when I set out for Abids.

I was alone at Abids last Sunday without my friends and I decided to focus on the search for good titles. However luck eluded me and I couldn’t find anything worth buying for a long time. In the end I found a book that had a good cover, a good title, and was also about something I had grown interested in. I found a nice copy of ‘The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking’ by Jasleen Dhamija. It was a Penguin title and I did not even check what was inside before buying it. It was yet another welcome addition to my growing collection of cookbooks.
The other Sunday I had seen a nice copy of ‘Jasmine’ by Bharati Mukherjee at a seller in Chikkadpally. I did not buy it right away and thought I would buy it the next week. So last Sunday after finding ‘The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking’ I was keen to get to Chikkadpally. Unfortunately for me it began to rain and by the time I got to Chikkadpally the seller had spread a large plastic sheet over his books. With the rain coming down in sheets I couldn’t ask him to take off the cover and look for ‘Jasmine’ that I was keen to buy. So I had to return home with just Jasleen Dhamija’s cookbook.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 4-9-2016)

Yesterday, by a curious coincidence I was reading a book by David Pryce Jones on Graham Greene’s writing when the next chapter I came upon in Navtej Sarna’s ‘Second Thoughts,’ that I am dipping into occasionally, also happened to be on Graham Greene. One of the books I had bought at Abids last Sunday happened to be one by Graham Greene- ‘The Ministry of Fear’- which was also written about in David Pryce Jones’ book.
Somehow I had come rather late to Graham Greene. Although I came across his ‘Brighton Rock,’ ‘The Power and the Glory’ on the pavements at Abids I did not pick them up feeling that I wasn’t yet ready for Graham Greene. A long time back I had found a book of essays by Greene that I read soon after. Then slowly I began to collect his titles one by one. I found his ‘Journey Without Maps’ recently and before that I had picked up ‘The Man Within’ after I read ‘The Man Within My Head’ by Pico Iyer.

I had also found ‘The Heart of the Matter’ and also ‘The Lawless Roads’ after reading which I felt I had been a bit dumb not to have read Graham Greene much earlier. I am captivated by Graham Greene’s writing and now I try not to miss any of his titles whenever I come across them. So far I haven’t found ‘The Ministry of Fear’ so when I saw it at Abids I made a grab for it. I got it for just thirty rupees.
The other book I found at Abids was a beautiful, brand new copy of ‘The Foolproof Cookbook’ by Rohini Singh. I already possess a copy of the same book but it is not as good as the copy I found on Sunday. It was for a hundred rupees but I did not paying that much for it. In the next couple of weeks I may have to start cooking for myself because now I plan to set up house at either Nalgonda or Suryapet where I am likely to be posted after the formation of the new districts in the State. This book might be useful then.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 28-08-2016)

Away from Hyderabad for two weeks on official work I badly missed three things: my family, home cooked food, and the Sunday trips to Abids. I could lessen the anguish of not being with my family by talking to them over phone every day, and also sneak out to a hotel to have something different from the stuff being provided to us but there wasn’t anything I could do to get over the massive disappointment of not being able to browse for books at Abids on two Sundays. Ironically, I had forgotten to pack a couple of books to take along on the trip. I had brought along only one book- The Cost of Living’ by Mavis Gallant. I read just one story a day from this terrific collection of short stories. Even then after just a week I ran out of reading material. Luckily for I had a book at office that someone managed to get for me. It was ‘Travelling in Nepal’ by Charlie Pye Smith.

Anyway, last Sunday despite being not too well I went to Abids eager to meet my friends and browse to my heart’s content. I don’t know why but it seems the traffic cops had made the pavement booksellers to limit their displays so it meant that many of the booksellers had just a few books laid out. It was very disappointing but I guess since it was the Hyderabad Marathon the cops must have tried to make sure the runners don’t tread on the books!

I found only one book and it was a wonderful title. I found a collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates titled ‘faithless: tales of transgression’ that had twenty one stories in three parts: Au Sable; Agly; Lover; Summer Sweat; Questions;Physical; Gunlove in Part One, Faithless; The Scarf; What Then, My Life?; Secret, Silent in Part TWO; A Manhattan Romance; Murder-Two; The Vigil; We Were Worried About You; The Stalker; The Vampire; Tusk; The High School Sweetheart: A Mystery; Death Watch; in *COPLAND* in Part THREE. For a book with twenty one stories it is quite bulky and appears like half a brick. I was glad to find this book but had to pay a hundred rupees for it. I am sure the book is worth more than what I paid for it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Long Break

After completing nine years of this blog I thought I deserved a short break. I got a break from unexpected quarters. The Government (my employer) itself gave me a break by sending me away from home for two long weeks. Naturally I couldn't go to Abids for the past two Sundays and hence no posts here. I came home only two days ago from that strenuous duty bringing with me fever, cold and a nagging cough. Right now I am recovering from it all and promise to post something next Friday. Until then let me rest :)