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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Sunday Haul (21-02-2015)

I had a vague thought in mind to watch the movie when I found the book. I did not really expect to find the actual book but on Sunday it was quite a surprise to come across a nice copy of ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. I decided to forego the movie for the time being since I could know the story better by reading the book. Even if I decided to watch the movie ultimately I don’t know if it would be around by the time I finish reading the book which has more than 300 pages.
It was a hot Sunday morning and I was alone at Abids. It was actually a blessing in disguise since I could focus on each and every title on the pavements. However, despite the keen search I couldn’t find anything. There was a book of short stories by Amanda Cross that looked interesting but I gave it a miss. The name seems familiar but somehow I did not feel like picking it up which could be a dumb thing to do for all I know. But if I see it next Sunday then maybe I will pick it up.
Earlier on Friday I dropped in at the MR Bookstore beside the Punjagutta flyover in the evening. I wanted to check out if there were any interesting titles to pick up. When I saw ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino I remembered what Jai told me recently. He had told me not to miss any title by Keigo Higashino. So naturally, I took his advice seriously and picked up ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino. Though the price sticker mentioned 150 rupees I got it for a hundred. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t too high a price either. Crime fiction interests me greatly so I have already begun reading it and found it to be extremely engrossing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Sunday Haul

A few days back the Government announced that shops could be allowed to open on Sundays also. At that time I did not really pay much attention about it since it wouldn’t affect me because I am not such a big shopper. However I thought that it was a good idea since both shoppers as well as the shopkeepers would benefit from it. It wasn’t until I went to Abids last Sunday that I realized that the Government’s latest announcement would affect me directly. When I first noticed that a couple of shops were open I did not give it much thought but later I remembered the announcement. It might take a couple of months for the shopkeepers to get into the habit of keeping the shops open so until then I guess the Sunday book bazaar at Abids would remain. Afterwards, what? I do not want to think or imagine about it now.
On the way to Abids I had stopped at a pavement bookseller at Chikkadpally. The guy looks so forlorn and lost that sometimes I give him books that I no longer want to keep with me. This made him that he is indebted to me. So he refuses to take any money from me when I pick up a title I find in his collection. But I always pay him whatever ridiculously low price he sometimes quotes. So when I spotted ‘The World of Malgudi’ an omnibus book with four titles- Mr Sampat, The Financial Expert, The Painter of Signs, and A Tiger for Malgudi- I picked it up. It was in extremely good condition and I desperately wanted it. He let me have it for only hundred rupees.
The next find was at Abids. It was a title that I never cease to find everywhere in all bookstores, and also pavement sellers. I have seen so many copies of it at so many places over the years but did not buy it. Finally, last Sunday, I bought ‘Cold Mountian’ by Charles Frazier when I got it for a low price. It is a forbidding tome of about 450 pages which was one of the reasons why I had resisted buying it till now. Anyway, now that I have bought it I hope to find time to read it some day in the future.
A couple of years ago at a book sale in YMCA I had come across Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Everything is Illuminated’ that I did not buy for some stupid reason. I guess it was the price that put me off then. However, I did not come across the title again anywhere. At Abids I saw another Foer title- ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ that I hesitated for a long time to buy. This title too was another tome of nearly 350 pages of which about 25 pages are blank with some illustration filling a quarter of the page. Only when I read the book perhaps I will know what that illustration.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Sunday Haul

Last Friday, it was my birthday which was one reason why there was no post on the blog. Another reason was that I did not have anything to write on the blog since the Sunday before I returned empty handed from Abids. Though I spent a couple of hours scouring the pavements I found nothing interesting enough to make me buy it.
However, last Sunday it was a different scene. The summer is upon Hyderabad if the warm mornings are any indication. At Abids I found two more books within the hour. The first find was in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees. The moment I spotted ‘The Spoon River Anthology’ by Edgar Lee Masters I knew it was something worth buying. I had read about it somewhere and that also pushed me to buy it. It has 214 poems and is considered as a title that brought fame to Edgar Lee Masters.
The second find was Shrilal Shukla’s ‘Opening Moves’ that I got for fifty rupees. Ever since I read ‘Raag Durbari’ I had been looking for more writing by Shrilal Shukla and so when I found ‘Opening Moves’ I felt thrilled. Since I had finished reading ‘Raag Durbari’ for the third time sometime last month I plan to start ‘Opening Moves’ very soon. With these two books the haul so far in 2015 has gone up to 17.

Friday, January 30, 2015

@HLF 2015 and the Haul@HLF


True to its peripatetic reputation, HLF once again moved on and pitched its tents at a new venue, Hyderabad Public School, this year. At HPS it appeared like HLF may have found a permanent venue because HPS as Hyderabadi a venue as any. But I couldn’t help wondering where the HLF might be held next year.

Unlike the previous years I was present at HLF this year for all the three days from morning till evening. This meant that I got to attend quite a few sessions though I gave the cultural events, the book launches and the workshops, a miss. I also checked out all the exhibitions, especially the photo exhibition of one my favorite travel writers- Ryszard Kapuscinski. I also could meet my friends in Hyderabad and also those from other cities. There were also a few pleasant surprises and a couple of unpleasant surprises. The pleasant surprise was finding a second hand book sale where I picked up four books.

There were three venues for the sessions, two outdoor and one indoor. On Saturday, the first day the first session I sat through was the one by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Kishalay Bhattacharjee which was quite interesting. The second one I sat in was with Vinita Dawra Nangia and Wendell Rodericks which was held in the indoor venue which had such bad acoustics that I left midway. At lunch I discovered that the organizers had made good arrangements for the delegates including lunch for them at the venue. However they seemed to have forgotten that those who come to hear the delegates also have stomachs some of which need to be filled with something more than chaat which was what was arranged for all those who were not delegates. So I had to walk all the way out of the vast HPS campus, and search for a place to eat and have lunch.

After lunch I sat through another session which was a conversation between Krishna Shastri Devulapally and Keith Butler, an Anglo Indian now settled in Australia. Butler was an angry writer, angry about how Anglo Indians were treated everywhere which he seemed to pour into his book. Another session I sat through was the one by Ashok Banker. This was in the second venue where the sound system had not yet been fixed so I could hear only half of what transpired between the writer and the moderator.

The second day,Sunday, I came along with my son. I wanted him to see what is behind and what is beyond all the books I bring home regularly. We sat through the session by Aniruddha Bahal who said that he wanted to be known as a novelist than as a journalist. The day was filled with sessions of poetry. I attended one in which there was one poet I had been reading since decades- Menka Shivdasani. Another graceful poet was Usha Akella, and so was Semeen Ali. In contrast was Meena Kandaswamy, letting off some fireworks in her poetry.

Later on after lunch it was more poetry, but it was Telugu poetry. The session- A Celebration of Telangana Poetry- was moderated by N. Gopi. Some of the Telangana poets like Nikhileshwar, Denchanala Srinivas, Annavaram Devendar and others read out stirring stuff composed out of rage, frustration, and a sense of despair in the minds of the Telangana. I plan to get my hands on some of the other poems written by these poets. It was interesting to find that one of the poets was a Government employee, an employee of the Revenue Department.

On the last day I sat through the session called ‘Urban Vignettes’ of Devdan Chauduri and Madhavi S. Mahadevan. The session was capably moderated by Urvi Desai and an interesting discussion ensued over an issue in one of the novels by one of the authors. The second session I attended was a conversation between Anvar Ali Khan and Kingshuk Nag which was very interesting. Kingshuk Nag made some explosive observations about the present day politicians and gave his insights into the origins of some of the country’s major political parties However, I felt there was a kind of chill between Kingshuk Nag and Anvar Ali Khan in conversation.

After lunch I sat through another session-Muslimist Poetry in Telugu- which I was glad I attended. The session was moderated well by Naren Bidedi. I heard a wonderful poem by Khadar Mohiudeen on the lives of ‘lower castes’ of Muslim. One poem that I found too poignant was titled ‘Laddaf’ which was read out by a woman poet whose name I am unable to recollect now. I wish I could lay my hands on the entire collection of poems the various poets read out. The last session I attended was ‘Cross-cultural Journeys’ with Ashwini Devare, Chitra Viraraghavan, and Nina McConigley and moderated by T.Vijay Kumar.
During the three days of the HLF I managed to pick up three books at the second hand stall and one book at the other store. I found ‘Life and Times of Michael K’ by JM Coetzee, ‘Writing from the Margin and Other Essays’ by Shashi Deshpande, and a beautiful hardcover copy of ‘Trying to Say Goodby’ by Adil Jussawala, at the second hand book stall. I picked up ‘Gas Wars’ by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
It was a wonderful time that I spent at HLF meeting some of my friends (Hari, Daniel, Kiran, Krishna Shastri Devulapalli, Chitra, Praveen),hearing all that wonderful poetry, listening to the writers, poring through some of the books at the two book stalls, watching all those dedicated book lovers some of whom I see at almost all literary events, and feeling good in general.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

At the Launch of '50 Not Out' Harimohan Paruvu

There are a lot of people who have experiences that have changed their lives, and that which shared with others, would also if not change, then affect the lives of others in some way. But these people don’t or can’t share their wisdom, for various reasons. Either because they are selfish, and assume people should learn their own lessons, or because they have no idea of how to share these experiences/lessons with a larger audience.

Then there are several people who have learnt a few lessons, mostly insignificant ones, have read one or two inspirational books and feel that they too have it in them to write one such book. Unfortunately, their wisdom seems borrowed and not too convincing either because the writer focuses too much on himself and his ‘wisdom’ which he imparts, often, in a pompous tone. Many of the inspirational books currently on the shelves are written by such people. Not surprisingly such books remain on the shelves in bookstores.

Then there are those who have gone through life taking some hard knocks, learning valuable lessons from something they are passionate about and most importantly, have that great wish to share those lessons with others, especially with those who need it most. They are also fortunate to have it in them the skill to put into words what they exactly want to say, and say it well. Hari falls into this category. Having known Hari for almost two decades I know how passionate and committed he is to cricket, writing, and also to a desire to mould lives. I have been a recipient of some of the lessons he has written about so well in his third book ’50 Not Out’ that was launched on Wednesday.

At the launch at Landmark in Somajiguda were CV Anand, Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, VVS Laxman, the cricketer, Sumanth, the actor and also Suresh Babu, the film producer, all of them who read out from the book and shared their observations. CV Anand spoke at length about his friendship with Hari and also said how some of the things in Hari’s book can be put into practice by everyone, including cops. Sumanth, in a soft spoken voice read out from the book and some of his remarks had the audience smiling. Personally I liked the short and insightful speech by Suresh Babu. VVS Laxman, the Chief Guest, made some interesting observations about Hari’s game and also the book.

‘50 Not Out’ contains fifty brief chapters each dealing with a quality/trait/habit that one needs to succeed in any endeavour in life. Hari explains the fifty qualities using his own experiences in cricket along with quotes from many famous and successful people. For those really keen to work on these lessons there are helpful tips at the end of each chapter. I sincerely hope ‘50 Not Out’ finds a place in everyone’s bookshelf, and changes lives in some small way as Hari intended.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sunday Haul

I am surprised how many good writers are out there who have written good books and about who/which I am totally ignorant. Even after more than two decades of browsing in the books bazaar of Abids I don’t feel like I’ve had enough. One thing that keeps me going to Abids is the eager anticipation of what I would find on the pavements. Almost every Sunday I return home with a new book by an author I hadn’t heard about before. Last Sunday too I found, serendipitously, another wonderful title by an author I had no idea about.

It was late in the afternoon and I was winding up my browsing when I chanced upon ‘In the Heart of the Heart of the Country’ by William Gass. This book was in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees and some instinct nudged me to pick it up. I was glad I went with my instinct since later I read that William Gass is no ordinary writer. On the back cover Newsweek describes him as ‘one of the important writers of his generation…’ William Gass is also the author of ‘Omensetter’s Luck’ which is supposed to be a modern classic.
‘In the Heart of the Heart of the Country’ is a collection of just five short stories. Pedersen Kid, Mrs. Mean, Icicles, Orders of Insects, and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Sunday Haul

A long time back I hesitantly picked up Dirk Bogarde’s ‘An Orderly Man’ and after I read it, I realized that actors could be good writers as well. Later, when I came across ‘For the Time Being’ by him I did not hesitate before buying it. FRTB was a mix of articles, and book reviews which was where I read about Molly Keane’s ‘Loving and Giving’ which Bogarde selected as a book of the year along with one of Marquez’s title. Somehow I remembered the title but when I found it at Abids I did not buy it.

About six months ago I spotted ‘Loving and Giving’ by Molly Keane in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees at Abids. For some reason I did not buy it right away and decided I would pick it up the next Sunday because I was certain no one knew about this book. Not surprisingly, the next Sunday when I looked for it the book was not to be found. I felt like kicking myself for not picking it when I saw it first. Every Sunday I made it a point to look for it at the same spot where I first saw it but was disappointed. I thought someone who knew better than me must have bought it. But, I don’t consider myself lucky in matters of books just like that. I spotted it again last Sunday when it surfaced again in the same heap where I had seen it first. This time I did not hesitate and bought it the minute I saw it.

The second haul of last Sunday was another short story collection. It was in another heap of books selling for twenty rupees that I found Scott F Fitzgerald’s ‘Babylon Revisited and Other Stories’ It was almost a brand new copy and had the following stories: The Ice Palace, May Day, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, Winter Dreams, Absolution, The Rich Boy, The Freshest Boy, Babylon Revisited, Crazy Sunday, and The Long Way Out.

The third book of the haul was a Len Deighton title- ‘An Expensive Place to Die’ that I couldn’t resist buying because it was brand new, the cover was different from the copies I had at home and besides it was just for twenty rupees. With these three books I came back home with that feeling one gets when one buys really good books.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Haul

Except for the books I found and a few fountain pens I bought, for me, the year that passed had been a dismal year. There was nothing remarkable or memorable about 2014 for me so I do not want to write much about what had (or had not) happened to me last year. This is one reason why there was no post here last Friday.

Last year I bought a total of 168 books. Almost all of them were quite good titles and some of them were titles I had not expected to find, such as a short collection of Flannery O’ Connor, a book of verse by Seamus Heaney, second and third copies of ‘All About H Hatterr’ by GV Desani, and the splendid haul of books at the Book Fair in December. I also came across some fantastic authors I did not know about- Charles McCarry, Ross Thomas to name two. I guess 2014 was the best year I had in terms of books.

Apart from books, in fountain pens one of my dreams came true. I always prefer eye dropper filler mechanism in my fountain and that preference meant that I had to make do with mediocre nibs. I had always dreamt of Indian hand made fountain pens fitted with good nibs that are available abroad and that write smoothly. Jai introduced me to one such person who made three fantastic fountain pens for me that I thought were heaven sent. After finding them I lost all interest in other types of fountain pens.
Other than books and fountain pens nothing else went right for me last year. There were a lot of disappointments, failures, and non-starters. I hope 2015 undoes all that went wrong in 2014.
On the last Sunday of the year I found ‘The Green Gardner’ by Jayanta Mahapatra. The book was almost brand new and I got it for thirty rupees. It is a collection of the following eighteen short stories : The Disappearance of Protima Jena, The Green Gardener, 30th January 1948: An Evening, And Under the Casuarinas, In a Lost Love’s Turning, Eyes, Ringing Silences, The Hotel Room, The Trunk of Ganesha, An Afternoon of Dr Das, Turn Left for Happiness, The Bottle of Perfume, The Death of a Boy, The Old Man in the Dark, Bells for a Bull, The Mango Tree, Another Day, and Red.
Last Sunday, which was also the first Sunday of the year, I found a title I had thought would take me a long time to find. I found Graham Greene’s ‘The Lawless Roads’ in a heap of books with obscure titles that were selling for twenty rupees. I almost missed it because the cover was torn and the book too did not look very impressive. Only after I read the title carefully did I realize what it was. I felt lucky to have found such a good title for so cheap.
The next find was in another heap of book selling for only twenty rupees. I found ‘Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories-2’ by Annie Proulx. There are eleven stories in the collection. These are the stories: The Hellhole, The Indian Wars Refought, The Trickle Down Effect, What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick, The Old Badger Game, Man Crawling Out of Trees, The Contest, The Wamsutter Wolf, Summer of Hot Tubs, Dump Junk, and Florida Rental. The book was in an excellent condition and I picked it up the moment I saw it. I already have ‘Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories’ so finding this title was quite a coincidence.
However, the first find was another classic title that I found in a heap of book selling for only ten rupees. I saw ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk & White the first thing after I had parked my bike. I immediately picked it up though I have several copies of this book with me. Though I made a good start finding some good titles on the first Sunday itself I hope to buy not more than fifty books.