Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 19-06-2016)

As the month of Ramzan has already begun the shopkeepers in Hyderabad keep their shops open on Sundays also. Abids is no exception and since the stores selling shoes, dresses, etc that abound in Abids were open the second hand booksellers who occupy the pavements before this shops shift to other places. Not finding the regular booksellers at their usual places causes some sense of dislocation. Despite this dislocation I had the usual haul netting two books last Sunday at Abids.
It was a bit of luck that I spotted ‘In the Country of Men’ by Hisham Matar nestled in a pile of haphazardly arranged books with only the Penguin logo being visible. I usually do not miss out checking out Penguin titles so I extricated this book from the pile with some difficulty. I do not remember the titles but the name Hisham Matar was familiar as I had come across the name many times. I decided to buy this book and paid only forty rupees for this book in a good condition.
In the plant pathology classes at the agricultural college where I studied a long time back I read about the potato late blight disease that damaged the potato crop in Ireland completely and caused a famine that claimed millions of lives. At that time it was only a statistic, a fact useful only during examinations. I hadn’t realized the human dimension behind that tragedy and so when I came across a copy of ‘Famine’ by Liam O’ Flaherty I decided to check it out. The blurb on the front cover said it was ‘one of the greatest novels of this century’ and Anthony Burgess called it ‘a major achievement, a masterpiece’ which was enough to make me decide to buy it. It is, as classics go, a lengthy book of nearly 450 pages. But I am glad I found it and gladder still that I got it for only forty rupees.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 12-06-2016)

It’s been almost two weeks since the monsoon season has begun but the rains have yet to fall. Since there has been a drought here for the past two years I really wish it would rain heavily and regularly but not on Sunday, please. For some reason I do not like it when it rains. The cloudy weather and the wetness that the rains come with brings on a gloom in my life that lifts only when the sun comes out. Since it hasn’t yet started to rain I am normal and yet to be engulfed by the rain-induced gloom that brings back painful memories. Last Sunday it was quite sunny when I started for Abids to hunt for books on the pavements there.
Even before I was halfway through to Abids I stopped at a seller in RTC Crossroads on a hunch. I was glad I followed my bunch to stop there because I spotted a good book in a pile stacked up against the wall. I found ‘Everyone Can Write’ by Peter Elbow. It was quite a hefty paperback of nearly 500 pages containing several lengthy academic essays on the process on writing. Academic or whatever when it comes to anything about writing I’m willing to empty my pockets. I got this book for a hundred and fifty rupees which was quite cheap considering the immaculate condition of the book and what it is about.
Later at Abids it was a happy reunion of all my friends I made through this blog where I write about books mostly. I met Umashankar, Srikant, and also Jai and we dug through a large pile of books where we had gathered. Our search yielded quite a few good titles as Shrikant and Uma found two different copies of ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain. I found a nice copy of ‘Diary of a Madman and Other Stories’ by Gogol. Since I had not come across any such collection of stories by Gogol I picked it up from the pile of books selling for thirty rupees.
The last find was a title by Ross Macdonald that I spotted with another seller in a heap of books selling three for a hundred rupees. The title I found was ‘MEET ME AT THE MORGUE’ and I was excited at finding another Ross Macdonald title to add to my collection of his books. But I was disappointed when I saw that it was not a Lew Archer novel. I bought it nevertheless because Ross MacDonald is the kind of writer you wouldn’t want to miss reading.
With these three books the total number of books I found so far this year stands at eighty eight.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 5-6-2016)

Sometimes being deprived of something one is addicted to has a brighter side to it. Among other things one learns to savor what one is deprived of. Last Sunday visiting Abids after a two-week gap I realized the eye had become keener and the hunger to find good titles is a bit sharper. I ended up finding seven good titles at Abids last Sunday that washed away any remnants of resentment I had over not being able to go to Abids and look for books on the pavements.
When I spotted a book by Cyril Connolly I did not even want to look at it because I thought his were books that I wouldn’t understand. Though I had come across the name ‘Cyril Connolly’ enough times to remember it I hadn’t bothered to find out more and it was my loss. Last Sunday after much hesitation I picked up the slim and small copy of ‘The Unquiet Grave’ by Cyril Connolly that I decided to buy for the sole reason that it was a Penguin and I strongly believe that Penguin publishes only the best writing. It sounds like a very interesting book judging from the blurbs on the front cover and the back.
Sunday’s second find was a nice copy of ‘Billion Doller Brain’ by Len Deighton that I had been eyeing since the past few weeks at the same spot with the same seller. I have a couple of copies of this title but nevertheless I bought this copy too hoping to pass it on to someone who hasn’t yet discovered Len Deighton’s magic.
I found the third and fourth books of the day in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees only. I found a good copy of ‘Black Sun’ by Edward Abbey. (I have already finished reading it.) I also found a copy of ‘Memoirs of Hecate County’ by Edmund Wilson in the same heap. The first time I saw this title a long time back I had a feeling that it could be a good read. But somehow for whatever reason I did not buy it and later I regretted not picking it up. This time however I did not want to lose it so I picked it up. I am also looking for a good copy of ‘Peyton Place’ by Grace Metalious to read along this book.
The last find at Abids was a book by another author who is one of my favorites- Arun Joshi. I found yet another copy of one of the earliest editions of Arun Joshi’s ‘The Foreigner. Sometime recently I had found a good copy of this same edition and added it to my collection of multiple copies of novels by Arun Joshi. I couldn’t resist buying this copy too and adding to the delight was the price which was just forty rupees that the seller asked.
Later at Chikkadpally on the way home I found a nice and almost new copy of ‘South of the Border West of the Sun’ by Haruki Murakami. It was a slim volume and in quite good condition and I expected the seller to quote hundred or hundred and fifty rupees for it. I did not let the shock on my face show when the seller asked for fifty rupees so I quietly handed him the cash and took the book.
The last find also at Chikkadpally but at a different seller was yet another book on writing. I must have close to a hundred and fifty books on writing half of which would have been more than enough for anyone to get started on their writing yet I wanted, desperately, to buy the copy of ‘Writing on Both Sides of the Brain’ by Henriette Anne Klauser that I saw at Chikkadpally.

Friday, June 03, 2016

A Midweek Haul

The past two Sundays I haven’t been to Abids to look for books as is my habit. The Sunday before last I had to attend a funeral. Last Sunday I had to go to an event that went for a long time leaving me no time to go to Abids. It left me with a restlessness that comes to me when I am unable to go to Abids. Sometime on Wednesday or so I decided to drop in at the Abids branch of Best Books. I had seen a Hindi novel on my previous visit and I wanted to buy it. But when I tried to locate it I couldn’t. Looking around the hundreds of books on the shelves I spotted a cover that had ‘BOOKS’ on it. I took it out and saw that it was ‘BOOKS- Identification and Price Guide’ by Nancy Wright.
‘BOOKS’ had a few pages of what book collecting is and how to identify first editions and all that. The rest of the book was a lengthy list of books arranged alphabet wise and its likely price. Naturally I am terribly interested in anything that has got to do with books so I bought it. Going through it might help me find rare books or first editions next time I visit Abids or any second hand bookstore. I do not have many books on book collecting though I am quite desperate to lay my hands on something that has a lot of information. I hope someday I will come across a good guide.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 15-05-2016)

Though Sunday morning turned out to be a pleasantly cool one on account of the heavy rainfall the night before I was a bit worried if there’d be water stagnating at Abids deterring the sellers. Last Saturday night it had rained quite heavily and there was a strong wind blowing too that caused many trees to topple over. I saw it in the morning while on my early morning walk. Large trees were uprooted and had fallen across the roads blocking movement of traffic. Some of the trees had fallen on the electricity poles causing a long power cut that lasted until afternoon on Sunday. When I got to Abids I was relieved to see all the sellers at their usual places.
The first title I saw was ‘The Interpreters’ by Wole Soyinka. At last I have managed to find one of his works after reading about him quite a long time back. The other title I found was ‘The Memory of Elephants’ by Boman Desai. I haven’t heard much about Boman Desai which was one reason why I decided to pick up this title apart from the interesting cover page. It was a hard cover and was publised by Andre Deutsch. The other Sunday I had seen an interesting title that I did not buy for some reason and when I wanted to buy it on Sunday the seller hadn’t come!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 8th May, 2015)

Last Sunday it wasn’t the kind of day Sunday normally is for me. I had been asked to come to the office which put me in a resentful mood. I had just an hour or so to go to Abids and check out the books. I had seen a title the previous Sunday that I realized was a good one and when I wanted to pick it the seller did not turn up. I looked around and managed to find another cook book. It was ‘The Complete Indian Cookbook- from Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ by Vimla Patil that I got for fifty rupees.
Though the visit to Abids in the morning helped me overcome the disappointment of going to work on a Sunday it did not last long. I had thought I’d be able to leave the office by evening but I was in the office until midnight. The Chief Minister was going to New Delhi to meet the Prime Minister to appraise him about the drought in the State and since I was the only officer available it fell on me to prepare the notes. Though I managed to complete the notes the loss of a holiday put me in a bad mood all week until Thursday.
On Thursday I dropped in at the Best Books store at Lakdi-ka-pul since it had been quite a long time since I had checked in at the store. Sometime back at a sale of Best Books in February I found two copies of ‘The Cost of Living’ by Mavis Gallant. Somebody had told me not to miss any title by Mavis Gallant so I felt quite lucky finding ‘The Cost of Living.’ On Thursday I got lucky again and found another title ‘My Heart is Broken’ by Mavis Gallant. It was only for forty rupees and I felt glad I found the book. It is a collection of the following nine stories: Acceptance of Their Ways; Bernadette; The Moabitess: Its Image on the Mirror ( a short novel); The Cost of Living: My Heart is Broken; Sunday Afternoon: An Umarried Man’s Summe; and The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Sunday Haul ( on 1-5-2016)

Right from the beginning 2016 has been very lucky for me when it comes to finding good books on Sundays at Abids. I’ve been picking up at least one good title every Sunday at Abids and last Sunday too I was similarly lucky. I found not one but two interesting titles at Abids last Sunday. Since I had to attend a marriage in the afternoon on Sunday I planned to browse for about an hour and leave early so that I could be on time for the marriage. In the hour and half that I was at Abids I was able to bag two books that I felt I had to buy.

Sometime back I had found Gordon Ramsay’s memoir titled ‘Playing with Fire’ at Abids. When I began reading it I realized that the pages at the end were missing. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to know how the book ends. Normally I check for missing pages at the front and the back, half torn pages and such damages before I decided to buy any book at Abids. Somehow I failed to notice the missing last pages in ‘Playing with Fire’ before paying for it. Anyway, I found ‘Humble Pie’ also by Gordon Ramsay that turned out to be his autobiography. It was at the bottom of a heap and somehow I spotted the title and dug it out. It would have to be someone very dumb not wanting to know more about Gordon Ramsay after watching ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ on television.
The copy of ‘Humble Pie’ that I found was a hardcover one and in a fairly good condition. It was in a heap of books selling for forty rupees which was what I paid for it. I wish I hadn’t given away ‘Playing with Fire’ because it would have been interesting to read ‘Humble Pie’ before reading ‘Playing with Fire’ again.
After discovering Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer my interest in reading Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series waned a little. However, I haven’t stopped buying them when I find a title I do not have. Next to the heap in which I found ‘Humble Pie’ was another heap of mostly paperbacks selling for thirty rupees each. It was in this heap that I found a beautiful copy of ‘Mortal Stakes’ by Robert B. Parker that was a Penguin edition. I do not remember if I already have this copy but nevertheless I bought it because it was too good a copy to leave behind.
I also found a nice copy of 'Asterix at the Banquet' that looked almost brand new. The smart sellers at Abids quote no less than a hundred and fifty rupees for such copies but I got mine for just fifty rupees which was a steal.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 24-04-2016)

It was another heatwave Sunday but nevertheless I went to Abids to look for books. It was worth sweating it out in the hot sun since I found a couple of good titles. It was pretty hot on Sunday morning as I moved from seller to seller looking at the titles and trying to find books worth picking up. I found the first book worth buying not very long after I reached Abids. There’s a seller with whom I do not like to bargain since he quotes a price that he knows I can pay. I picked up a most interesting title that turned out to be a strange one. I picked up a book, a hardcover one, with a jacket that had the title- ‘Desi Khana: The Best of Indian Vegetarian Cooking’ by Tarla Dalal. The cover got me all excited and I was eager to buy this wonderful sounding cookbook. After I gave it to the seller to tell me its price he told me the book wasn’t what the jacket said. I took it back from him and checked. The jacket was of one book and the book inside was a different one. The book was actually ‘The Bombay Palace Cookbook: A Treasury of Indian Delights’ by Stendahl. It was a nice hardcover book with beautiful photographs of some mouth-watering dishes. I decided to take this unusual find paying Rs 70 that the seller quoted.

My second find turned out to be another cookbook, one that I already had. I found a good copy of ‘Made in India’by Kunal Vijayakar, a short, slim book containing a lot of recipes. The copy I had earlier picked up was had a torn and disfigured cover but I had bought it then as I did not want to miss it. I picked up the good copy I found and got it for just ten rupees.

There’s a seller who comes only occasionally to Abids but when he comes he brings some really good titles that he simply heaps on the pavement. It is quite a task to fish out titles worth buying from that pile of books. Looking through the books I managed to unearth a good copy of ‘Birds of America’ by Lorrie Moore. I was quite excited to find another title by Lorrie Moore not long after I had found my first Lorrie Moore title at the Best Books sale at YMCA in February. I had found ‘Self Help’ then and got it for just twenty five rupees. ‘Birds of America’ was in a heap of books that was Thirty rupees only. ‘Birds of America’ is a collection of twelve stories and these are the stories in it: Willing; Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People; Dance in America; Community Life; Agnes of Iowa; Charades; Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens; Beautiful Grade; What You Want to Do Fine; Real Estate; People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk; Terrific Mother.
The next find turned out to be another collection of short stories but this was by a writer I had only read a lot about about quite recently. I found a copy of an old edition of ‘Birds and Other Stories’ by Intizar Husain. It too had twelve stories: Leaves; Tortoise; Repentance; Complete Knowledge; A Strange Animal; Man and Woman; Monkeys; The Story of the Parrot and the Mynah; The Brahmin Goat; The Boat; They Couldn’t Lick the Wall; and The One Eyed Dajjal. I sat in an Irani cafe on the way home the other day and read ‘They Couldn’t Lick the Wall’ that I found it totally different from all the stories I had read so far.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 17-04-2016)

Even a heatwave couldn’t deter me from my quest for books at Abids on Sunday morning. I hadn’t been to Abids the previous Sunday and I was filled with that restlessness that I feel when I miss my Sunday hunt for books on the pavements of Abids. I rushed to Abids as soon as I was ready, equipped with cap and a bottle of water since I knew it would be pretty hot and that I would be thirsty. Fortunately there was a slight breeze which made the heat bearable. I decided to stay in the shade for as long as possible. Not very soon after I found the first title.
The first title I found was ‘Little Birds’ by Anais Nin. I had read about Anais Nin but hadn’t found any book by her so far, not that I had been looking for them. It was a small book with about a dozen stories. I got this book for thirty rupees and this was from a seller who thinks he is very smart and quotes high prices if you show the slightest interest in the book you pick up from the pavement. This time I felt I had outwitted him and got the book so cheap.
The next find was the kind of book I look forward to reading. I have a lot of autobiographies, and memoirs by writers mostly. Moss Hart’s ‘Act One’ is one autobiography by a playwright that I have with me and I found it very interesting. On Sunday I found another memoir and this was ‘Memoirs’ by Tennessee Williams who wrote the famous play- A Streetcar Named Desire. Though I haven’t read ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ I was thrilled to find the memoirs of its author. Once again, I got this wonderful book for just thirty rupees.
Though I have heard of ‘Game of Thrones’ and also read about how popular George RR Martin is so far I haven’t made any effort to read the books. Sometime back I had come across a title by George RR Martin at Abids but I was intimadated by the size of the book as well as the price quoted by the seller. I remember him asking for something like three hundred rupees and since I wasn’t very keen on the book I did not buy it. So when I saw another similar tilte in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees I was surprised. Though I have no intention to begin reading that fat volume I picked up ‘A Storm of Swords’ from the heap and bought it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Midweek Haul

One of the major second hand book store in Hyderabad is the Unique Book Centre now located opposite the Saifabad police station in Lakdi-ka-pul. About three years ago this store was shifted to the present location. Earlier the store functioned from a half a dozen musty smelling rooms in a dilapidated building in Nampally. I’ve bought quite a number of good books from this seller during my occasional visits to this store. One of the good books I found here was a nice copy of ‘From Here to Eternity’ by James Jones that I picked up sometime last year.

One idle afternoon, a long, long time back I dropped in at the Unique Book Store at Nampally, going from room to room in which were stacked hundreds of titles. In the middle of one room dozens of books, quite ancient from their lack of appearance and appearance were piled on a table. It was here that I first saw a copy of ‘A Hundred Encounters’ by Sham Lal. It was quite a thick, hardcover volume sans jacket with a faded black cover giving it an unappealing look. I wasn’t aware of Sham Lal and though I had a feeling that maybe it could be a title worth buying the black cover and the price of three hundred rupees pencilled in on the front page put me off. But I kept seeing this book every time I visited the store.

However for some time I couldn’t see this book and also forgot about it when the store shifted to its present location in Lakdi-ka-pul. Sometime last month I had dropped in and was quite surprised to see this title again. It was the same volume with the faded black cover and I noticed there was a tear at the bottom of the spine. It appeared to be one of those volumes no one seems to be interested in buying. I felt a bit sad that some books do not finders for years. I too wasn’t interested in buying it even after I took it out and checked the contents. I saw that there were was an entire section devoted to essays on famous poets, playwrights, and novelists. I counted forty two pieces in that section, that is almost half of the hundred articles in the book. Somehow I did not feel it was worth buying it at the price of three hundred rupees so I returned empty handed.

Sometime in February I was at Akshara with my friend. It was my birthday and Hari asked me to choose a book as a gift from me. I chose ‘The Girl Who Ate Books’ by Nilanjana Roy that I had been planning to buy. I had started reading this wonderful book and day before yesterday I was reading about Sham Lal and ‘A Hundred Encounters’ that was also mentioned in the essay on Sham Lal. After reading it I realized how dumb I had been not to have bought it earlier when I saw it. I was filled with an urgent desire to rush to Unique Book Store and buy it right away if I could find it. Luckily the book store isn’t far away from the Secretariat where I work and I rushed there after office.

Last week or so I had read a small item in some newspaper about a sale of books at Unique. I wondered if I would be able to find ‘A Hundred Encounters’ and fervently hoped no one would have bought it. I was relieved when I saw the book that was stacked on a table with the spine facing up. But it did not come cheap. I had to shell out two hundred and seventy rupees for it and I hope it is worth it.