Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 8-1-2017)

Abids in Hyderabad is the only place I know where one can buy a book (a second hand one) for as little as ten rupees only. A couple of years back one could get them for five rupees only but now it is ten rupees. For a long time I hadn't seen the ten rupee heaps at Abids but last Sunday I saw one such heap. In it I found a gem. I found 'Querelle of Brest' by Jean Genet. Though I haven't read the other Jean Genet title (The Thief's Journal) that I had found at Abids sometime back I picked up 'Qurelle of Brest' not for the price that I was getting it for but I had a feeling that it would be a good book.
The copy of 'Querelle of Brest' that I found was in good condition and I was glad at having spotted it. From the looks of it and the blurbs on the back by Edmund White and Cyril Connolly 'Querelle' promises to be an interesting read. I saw another title that I felt I should have picked up but for some reason I didn't. It was 'Johnny Got His Gun' by Dalton Trumbo. After I got home I checked out this title online and realized I was dumb not to have bought it. I hope to buy it next Sunday if no one has bought it by then.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 1-1-2017)

It is quite difficult for me to put into words why I feel like buying books all the time. Not more than a week has passed since the eleven day Hyderabad Book Fair ended just a day after Christmas and where I had bought thirteen books in the four or five visits I made to it. By the time I was done I had bought a total of 157 books in all during the year.

Last Sunday, incidentally, the first day of the New Year I was at Abids as usual. In the year gone by I had picked up more than a hundred and thirty or so books at Abids on Sundays. After buying thirteen books at the Book Fair only a week earlier I thought it wouldn't be a bright idea to take home more books. So last Sunday I started for Abids with the intention of returning home empty handed. However, once at Abids, the sight of all those books tempts me a lot and I ended up buying five books.
The first book I saw had the picture of George Clooney on the cover. It was a title that seemed to have been made into a movie. The copy of 'The American' by Martin Booth that I found was in a good condition and came for fifty rupees. With the same seller I found another interesting title- The Ayurvedic Cookbook- that I bought. It was a hardcover title but I got it for just fifty rupees.
After the usual chai and half hour of talk with friends in the Irani hotel at Abids I set out again. Sometime during the eleven day book fair I had overheard a young woman asking a bookseller if he had any books about Indian birds. She was disappointed when the seller said no. I felt sorry for her since she seemed very keen. Many years ago I had seen a copy of Salim Ali's books on the birds of India. But it had been in a very bad condition with a torn cover and missing pages and I did not buy it. Last Sunday I came across a hardcover copy of 'Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.' It had plenty of illustrations and pictures of several birds inside. Except for a bit of the cover missing the book was in a good condition and cost me only a hundred and fifty rupees.
In a heap of books selling for thirty rupees only I found a book with an interesting cover that suggested it would be an old and interesting title. It was 'My Life and Adventures' by Frank Harris. I usually buy memoirs and autobiographies by any literary personality so when I read inside that Frank Harris had been an editor of 'Saturday Review' I bought it.
A little further down the road I saw another old book with the author's photograph on the cover that had something all over it that made me pick it up for a closer look.The name of the author- Julian Symons also rung a bell somewhere inside my head and made me buy it. Inside I saw that Julian Symons had written on Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and also had articles on a literary magazine and others that I bought it without a second thought. I had a pleasant surprise when the seller asked for just thirty rupees for this hardcover gem.
After finding the above five books that were weighing me down I thought I wouldn't come across any more good title worth buying when I saw another title which was a memoir. I found 'The Spiral Staircase' by Karen Armstrong that I got for fifty rupees only. So I began the new year with a haul of five books and it looks like I am going to end this year too with another haul of nearly two hundred books.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 25-12-2016)

Though the Hyderabad Book Fair was on I decided to go to Abids on Sunday morning since it has become a habit I cannot avoid. None of my friends had come so I was pretty much alone browsing the books spread out on the pavements. Some of the sellers who had set up stalls at the Book Fair were not to be seen. Though I did not find anything at Abids I found one title at Chikkadpally on my way home. I found a crime fiction title that turned to have been made into a movie that was more successful than the novel. I found ‘Bullitt’ by Robert L Pike that was wrapped in plastic. The cover was half torn but I bought it since the price was only twenty rupees.

I hope I'll get to see the movie someday. Another movie of a novel I like very much is 'Get Carter' and this is a movie I also hope to watch soon if I am lucky enough to find either a DVD or something like that somewhere.

The Book Fair Haul-II

After my first visit to the 30th Hyderabad National Book Fair that I made on the second day of the fair I made a couple more visits, on holidays usually because I am working someplace out of Hyderabad. On my second visit to the HNBF I found the English translation of Dharamvir Bharti’s ‘ Sooraj ka Saatva Ghoda’ in the National Book Trust stall. It was titled ‘ The Sun’s Seventh Horse’ and was priced at just twenty five rupees. I picked this title right away. However I had meant to buy another title that I had been looking for- Vinod Kumar Shukla’s ‘Naukar ka Kameez’ the English translation of which was also there in the NBT stall but for some reason I did not find it. I had seen another English translation of the same title but published by Penguin in the book fair but the stall owner where I saw it couldn’t trace it. Since I found that NBT has a stall in OU I decided to by Shukla’s book some other time.
On my third visit I picked up another title I had been looking for a good copy of. It was Anuradha Roy’s ‘An Atlas of Impossible Longing’ that I had seen earlier but did not buy because the price was too high. I saw this copy with a Hyderabadi second hand book seller who had his stall at the fair and for some reason he came down on the price and gave it to me for just a hundred rupees. It was a beautiful copy and I am looking forward to read this much praised book sometime in the first few weeks of January.
On my next visit to the book fair on Christmas day I found that the crowd was a much larger one than what I had seen on my earlier visits. It was the penultimate day of the book fair and also a holiday hence the large crowds. It was a sight to watch all the stalls packed with people looking at books and buying them by the dozen. But I bought just one book again. Somehow I kept putting off buying some titles that I had seen and that I thought nobody would buy. That way I missed buying a good copy of Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ and also a beautiful copy of ‘The Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen that I saw in a stall that was selling all books for just thirty rupees. They were gone when I went looking for them.
I saw another copy of ‘The Rings of Saturn’ by WG Sebald at one of the second hand book stalls. I had found the same title a couple of years back but the copy I bought had the first two pages missing. However the copy I found at the book fair on Christmas had the first two pages intact so I bought it. Even otherwise I would have bought it because it is a title that is difficult to find though I feel that not many people know about WG Sebald. I thought I was lucky to find this title that I got for just a hundred rupees.
I made another visit on the last day of the fair hoping to find some of the titles I missed buying. Though I did not find them I found another good book. The only book I bought on the last day was by an author I had read about only recently this year. I think it was in one of the issues of some newspaper where some authors listed out the titles by writers who are either underrated or are not so well known. In that article I read someone list out Naiyer Masud as one such writer. I found a collection of stories by Naiyer Masud titled ‘Snake Catcher’ which had the following eleven stories: Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire; The Woman in Black; Snake Catcher; Resting Place; Ganjefa; Weather Vane; Custody; Epistle; Lamentation; Allam and Son and; The Big Garbage Dump.

It was a brand new copy but I got it for only hundred rupees. This is another welcome addition to the growing list of short story collections I had picked up this year. I think 2016 stands out for the most number of short story titles that I have managed to find during the year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Book Fair Haul-I

For the first time in many years I missed the first day of the Hyderabad Book Fair. I was in Hyderabad but attending a meeting that went on until half past time which was the time the Book Fair closed. So I went the next day. I don’t know if it was the effect of the demonetisation or something else I wasn’t very excited about the Book Fair. And when I entered the fair I was even more depressed after looking around at the stalls. There were less than ten stalls selling second hand books and three fourths of them seemed to be of sellers who are at Abids. I could see only three stalls of second hand books that were from other places. Last year there were more than ten second hand book stalls put up by sellers from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and other places. I did not expect to find many good titles in these stalls but I was wrong. I managed to find a decent haul of five books on my first visit to the 30th Hyderabad National Book Fair.
In the second hand book stall put up by Prateek Books from Mumbai I found five good titles. I was looking for a good copy of ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton after I read his autobiography ‘Towards the Mountain’ recently. I saw a good copy of ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ and picked it up. Next I saw a good copy of ‘The Pedant in the Kitchen’ by Julian Barnes. It seemed to be something about cooking and I just picked it up without a second thought because it was by Julian Barnes.
Sometimes one finds books from the collections of famous people if one buys only second hand books. Though I haven’t found any book from the collection of anyone famous I found a book at the Book Fair. The thing about being in a particular profession is that one collects books relating to that profession only. So when I saw a copy of ‘Jean Luc Godard’ from the library of Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprised how the book came to be with a second hand book seller. I wonder how many such books were in that library and what had happened to the rest of the collection in the library. But I felt a bit of a thrill holding that book that the two famous actors Sunil and Nargis Dutt would have held in their hands.
The next book I found was also an interesting one. It had the name ‘VIJAY TENDULKAR’ written on one of the inside pages along with the date- 24th July 1982. I wonder if it belonged to the famous playwright or someone else with the same name. The book was a copy of ‘Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work’ 2nd Series. It had interviews of fourteen famous writers: Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot, Boris Pasternak, Katherine Anne Porter, Henry Miller, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, S.J.Perelman, Lawrence Durrell, Mary McCarthy, Ralph Ellison, and Robert Lowell. I have one in another series with a different set of writers that I had bought a long, long time back.
In another stall of second hand books set up by another outstation seller I found a copy of ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. This is one title that I cannot resist buying whatever the cost. The copy I found was a Tenth Anniversary Edition by Scribner. The cover has a picture of Stephen King sitting in his study, writing while his pet dog looks from under his legs at the camera. I got this book for hundred rupees which I thought was a fair price.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 11-12-2016)

Though I enjoy being at Abids every Sunday I am not always comfortable with the weather. In the summer it is the heat and in the rainy season, of course, it is the rain that plays spoilsport. My favourite season for the weather is winter that begins here from October and lasts until February. During this period the mornings are sunny and pleasant making it possible to browse for hours together in the open.
Now it is winter in Hyderabad and I am enjoying the weather here. Last Sunday despite the glorious morning my haul at Abids wasn’t impressive. I found only one good title but that was a fantastic find. In a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees I found a Penguin 60s title: ‘Bon Voyage, Mr President’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a small book, just small enough to fit snugly into the shirt pocket. This title is a collection of four short stories: Bon Voyage, Mr President; Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane; I Only Came to Use the Phone; and Light is Like Water. I read ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane’ which was a beautiful story.

I was with my friends and we found five almost new paperback copies of ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ by Sidhartha Mukherjee. I had already bought one long ago but my friends wanted to pick up three copies. The seller quoted an astronomical price but we drove a hard bargain managing to drive him to desperation until he yielded and gave us the books at hundred rupees for each copy.

With this haul I have bought a total of 143 books this year and there are still two Sundays to go not to mention the Hyderabad Book Fair that began yesterday (15-12-2016). My total haul in 2016 will easily cross a hundred and fifty books. Next year I will get rid of an equal number of books because there is no space at home to keep all the books since all my shelves and table are overflowing with books. I hope I will be able to get rid of some books which is one of the hardest things to do if you love books as much as I do.

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)