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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Most of the books I have found in the past few months have been short story collections by some big names. I have found ‘Dying Alone and Other Stories’ by Krishna Baldev Vaid sometime in September, then ‘My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead’ edited by Jeffrey Euginides, ‘The Awakening and Other Stories’ by Kate Chopin in October, ‘The Progress of Love’ by Alice Munro, and ‘Secret Lives’ by Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, ‘Looking for Jake and Other Stories’ by China Mieville last month and ‘Collected Stories- Vol I’ by Shashi Deshpande earlier this month. It looks like a year of short story collections for me because I found two more short story titles last Sunday at Abids.
Flannery O Connor is one writer whose short story collections I had my eyes peeled open for since a long time. Then last Sunday among books scattered on the pavement I chanced upon ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ by Flannery O Connor that I got for just twenty rupees. The seller was one who has three branches in the city and I was surprised he did not know the value of this title. Anyway, I was glad to have found a Flannery O Connor title at last. It has nine stories:

Everything That Rises Must Converge
A View of the Woods
The Enduring Chill
The Comforts of Home
The Lame Shall Enter First
Parker’s Back
Judgement Day.

Next on my ‘to find’ list is a Lydia Davis title.

Afterwards, on the way home I stopped as usual at Chikkadpally. I found ‘Best American Short Stories-2007’ (ed-Stephen King) that I got for hundred rupees. It is worth every one of the hundred rupees I have paid for it because it has twenty stories, some of them by writers I know and many by those I do not know. These are the stories in it:

‘Pa’s Darling’ by Louis Auchincloss
‘Toga Party’ by John Barth
‘Solid Wood’ by Ann Beattie
‘Balto’ by TC Boyle
‘Riding the Doghouse’ by Randy Devita
‘My Brother Eli’ by Joseph Epstein
‘Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?’ by William Gay
'Eleanor’s Music’ by Mary Gordon
‘L.DeBard and Aliette: A Love Story’ by Laurn Groff
‘Wake’ by Beverly Jensen
‘Wait’ by Roy Kesey
‘Findings & Impressions’ by Stellar Kim
‘Allegiance’ by Aryn Kyle
‘The Boy in Zaquitos’ by Bruce McAllister
‘Dimension’ by Alice Munro
‘The Bris’ by Eileen Pllack
‘St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves’ by Karen Russell
‘Horseman’ by Richard Russo
‘Sans Farine’ by Jim Shepard
‘Do Something’ by Kate Walbert
I also found Ian Fleming’s ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ that I picked on a whim. It was for just thirty rupees so I bought it right away after I looked at the cover that was too interesting to ignore.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sunday Haul

It was a two book haul for me last Sunday at Abids. I already have two copies of Arun Joshi’s ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ at home. But I couldn’t resist buying another nice copy that I saw with the seller near the GPO at Abids. I got it for fifty rupees and except for a tear on the cover on the left corner at the top the book was in good condition. That was the only book I found at Abids last Sunday but at a seller at RTC X Roads I found another book.
I had been eyeing Shashi Deshpande’s ‘Collected Short Stories, Volume-I’ at this particular seller since the past two weeks. I hesitated to buy it because I thought the seller would ask for nothing less than a hundred bucks for this book. I did not want to buy it at that price though I did not ask him and he did not tell me the price. Last Sunday, I was surprised when he told me he would give the book to me for fifty rupees. I picked it up without a second thought thereby adding one more title to my ever growing collection of short stories.

This volume has twenty four stories: The Legacy, The First Lady, Anatomy of a Murder, Can You Hear Silence?, A Liberated Silence, Why a Robin?, An Antidote to Boredom, It Was the Nightingale, The Stone Women, Mirrors, The Inner Rooms, A Wall is Safer, The Duel, The Awakening, Independence Day, The Day Bapu Died, The Shadow, The Homecoming, The Boy, Waste Lands, My Beloved Charioteer, The Valley in Shadow, The Intrusion, and The Eternal Theme

Quite surprisingly, there is no news about the Hyderabad Book Fair in the papers. One seller I met at Abids told me that it was beginning from the 17th of December in the NTR Stadium grounds. But I wanted some official confirmation. Yesterday while going in a cab near Lakdi ka pul I saw a poster stuck on the rear of an autorickshaw. I had just enough time to read that it was beginning from next Wednesday. Whatever, I am eagerly waiting for the book fair to begin and counting the days.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Sunday Haul

It is not usual to find author signed copies of books at Abids. But I am also not particular about them and don’t really go looking for such books. It might be why I did not notice that I had bought an author signed title until I got home and checked out the book leisurely. I had found China Mieville’s ‘Looking for Jake and Other Stories’ in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees and decided to buy it. Only a couple of weeks earlier I had found his ‘Perdido Street Station’ that I had read somewhere was very good. Anyway, while leafing through the book at home I saw a signature scrawled on one of the title pages and it appeared like to that of China Mieville. I don’t know if such a copy is valuable but I was glad I found it.

‘Looking for Jake and Other Stories’ has the following fourteen stories: Looking for Jake, Foundation, Reports of Certain Events in London, Familiar, Entry Taken from a Medical Encyclopedia, Details, Go Between, Different Skies, An End to Hunger, ‘Tis the Season, Jack, and The Ball Room (co-written with Emma Birchman & Max Schaefer) and On the Way to the Front (illustrated by Liam Sharp). I am glad I got it cheap.

The second title I found on Sunday at Abids was by a writer I had recently come across. Sometime this year I had found ‘Devil on the Cross’ by Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o which I had read somewhere was a great book and that the author was on the shortlist for the Nobel. On Sunday I found a collection of his short stories titled ‘Secret Lives’ which had three parts and contained thirteen stories.

Part-I ( Of Mothers and Children)
Mugumo, And the Rain Came Down! Gone With the Drought

Part-II ( Fighters and Martyrs)
The Village Priest, The Black Bird, The Martyr, The Return, A Meeting in the Dark, Goodbye Africa

Part-III ( Secret Lives)
Minutes of Glory, Wedding at the Cross, A Mercedes Funeral, the Mubenzi Tribesman

But the dumbest thing I did on Sunday was not picking up the collection of poems by Jayanta Mahapatra that was on one of the shelves of a seller who refused to give it at the price I asked. It was really dumb not picking it up eagerly since he had asked for a reasonable price. I hope next Sunday it is there.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Those who know me and my habit of going to Abids every Sunday looking for books sometimes ask me to search for books they are unable to find elsewhere. They either want the book at a cheaper rate or it isn’t available so easily in the normal bookstores. Then there are some people I pick up books for at Abids without being told to. One such person is my kid who devours comics especially those of X-Men, Avengers, Spiderman, Superman and so on, of which he has an impressive collection. Needless to say I’ve picked up most of them when he isn’t able to come along with me. These comics are action oriented and so far I haven’t been able to find titles of Asterix, and also Calvin & Hobbes cheap at Abids.
Last Sunday however I found a Calvin & Hobbes title that was in good condition. Though 300/- was penciled in a corner on the inside cover I managed to bargain and got it for fifty rupees only. Even I was amazed when the seller agreed to the price I quoted.
The next find was at Abds and it was an old favorite- The Summing Up by Somerset Maugham. I found an edition different from all the ones I had picked up so far. I might have found and bought at least a dozen copies of this priceless title t hat I have given to friends who evinced interest in writing. I got this title for fifty rupees.
Another find was Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys and…’ that I saw immediately after I found The Summing Up. It was in good condition and I found that it was a 50th Anniversary Edition so I picked it up for thirty rupees.
At another seller I found a Robert B. Parker title that wasn’t one in the Spenser series. It was a Western called ‘Appaloosa’ which seemed to have been made into a movie also. The cover was impressive and I thought I may have to shell out nothing less than a hundred rupees for it. But I was surprised when the seller asked for thirty rupees only that I gladly paid him.
Only last week or so I had read about the venerable Shiv K Kumar, now into his nineties and ready to release another couple of books. At Abids I came across his ‘Trapfalls in the Sky’, a hardcover first edition that I got for the ridiculous price of fifteen rupees. It was more than forty poems and one of them was ‘An Indian Mother’s Advice to her Daughter Before Marriage’ that I remember reading somewhere long, long back.

Somebody had told me that the Hyderabad Book Fair was likely to begin from the seventeenth of December and would be held for ten days. There’s a couple of more weeks to go before the Book Fair begins and I am already feeling all excited about going there and plundering the second hand book stalls.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Full Stomach, Half Brain and the Jubilee Hills Crowd, Two Haul

Full Stomach, Half Brain

One can hardly expect the Jubilee Hills/Banjara Hills folks/crowd to get misty eyed about something as piffling as the closing of a bookstore when what makes them happy is the new eateries opening around them almost all the time. When they don’t have enough time to visit these numerous eateries how can one expect them to know that a major bookstore in their locality has shut down. If at all they show any interest in such an event it will be only to find out if a new eatery is coming up in place of the closed bookstore. On the other hand tell them a popular eatery has shut down then they will go into deep mourning like they’ve been struck by some great personal tragedy.

Well, in case the JH/BH crowd doesn’t know, the Landmark bookstore located on Road No. in Banjara Hills has shut down. I was there in Banjara Hill sometime last week and happened to notice this catastrophe. LM was a fairly large store to begin with but later it transformed itself into something else and finally it seems to have decided to fold up altogether. I wonder if the Odyssey store in Jubilee Hills has also met the same fate because I haven’t been there since a long time. Then there’s Akshara that doesn’t seem to have a fixed address. It seems to move to a different address every couple of years. I don’t know where the store is now because it is one store I was made to feel welcome.

I guess some of the bookstores realized they had a problem and had eateries inside the bookstores. Almost all the bookstores in JH/BH seem to either have an eatery inside or be conveniently located near one. However, this doesn’t seem to be working so I have an idea. Maybe they should think of having a bookstore inside an eatery. When the folks of JH/BH pause between their courses maybe they will take a reluctant look at the books. Even if this doesn’t work then as a last resort they should bring out books that can be eaten. The JH/BH crowd will be really happy someone has finally understood them and will be more than happy to buy such books that they can bite into after they have finished reading them.

The Sunday Haul

Anyway, last Sunday at Abids I found just one book that I picked out from a heap selling for twenty rupees only. I bought Ed McBain’s ‘The House that Jack Built’ because the title sounded familiar. It was a hard cover edition and when I sat in the cafĂ© for chai I flipped through the book and hooked by the opening started reading it. I finished it in two days.
The Midweek Haul

Yesterday I happened to visit the Legislative Assembly and while returning to office dropped in at the second hand bookstore at Lakdikapul. I found yet another Alice Munro title- The Progress of Love which is another collection of her short stories. The Progress of Love, Lichen, Monsieur les Deux Chapeaux, Miles City, Montana, Fits, The Moon in the Orange Street Skating Rink, Jesse and Meribeth, Eskimo, A Queer Streak, Circle of Prayer, and White Dump are the stories in this book. Apart from this title the other Alice Munro titles in my collection are: I have Dance of the Happy Shades, Runaway, The View from Castle Rock, The Moons of Jupiter.