Friday, March 27, 2015

The Sunday Haul ( on 22-03-2015)

A long time ago, I guess it was sometime in the late nineties, I came upon a title that opened a door to a genre I hadn’t until then been aware of. It was in the British Library that I found ‘Dark Star Safari’ by Paul Theroux that for some reason I decided to read. It was a lucky find because after reading ‘Dark Star Safari’ I decided to read more such books. Since then I got seriously hooked to travel fiction and it forms my first preference were I too choose between titles. However, luckily for me, not very long after reading ‘Dark Star Safari’ I found ‘Kingdom by the Sea’ which also I enjoyed reading.

Then I found Bruce Chatwin’s ‘What Am I Doing Here’ and after reading it became a life -long fan of Chatwin’s writing. Over the years I found his other books ‘In Patagonia’ ‘Utz’ 'Anatomy of Restlessness' 'Viceroy of Ouidah' and 'An Anatomy of Restlessness. However, I preferred his travel writing more than his fiction. So when I found his ‘On the Black Hill’ at Abids last Sunday I hesitated for some time. However, I hadn’t read anything by Chatwin for a long time and moreover hadn’t found any book the Sunday before so I decided to pick it up. It wasn’t very expensive also since the seller gave the book to me for only thirty rupees.
Normally I go to Abids on Sundays in the mornings only since I can return home for lunch and relax in the afternoon. Very rarely do I go in the afternoons and especially not in the summer when it becomes too hot to be in the open for very long. However, last Sunday due to some important commitment in the morning I had to visit Abids in the afternoon though it was quite hot. I was also alone and in the end I picked up just this title and returned home.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 8th March, 2015)

On some Sundays my haul at the Abids book bazaar is larger than expected for various reasons. When my friends do not accompany me I tend to look closely at the titles and inevitably manage to find some title that I want to buy. Last Sunday I ended up with a haul of five books, of which, I am glad to say, three titles were by vintage Indian writers.
The first find was a collection of short stories titled ‘Sword & Abyss’ by Keki N. Daruwalla. I knew Daruwalla was a poet but hadn’t known he wrote short stories too. So it was a surprise to find this collection of stories by Vikas Publishing House, a name I hadn’t heard before. Anyway, the collection has the following fifteen stories: The Tree, Shaman, Sword & Abyss, The Pebble Heap, The Bandit Comes Home, The Dwarf Deer, Scarecrow, Love Across the Salt Desert, How the Quit India Movement Came to Alipur, The Case of the Black Ambassador, Death of a Bird Lover, The Idol Theft, The Healing Touch, The Mixed Metaphor and the Case of the Hobo Artist, Martyrdom and Mukti. I got this book in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees.
The next find was ‘Manasarovar’ by Ashokamitran, a writer I like immensely just for the fact that he was born in Secunderabad and had written The Eighteenth Parallel which was set in Hyderabad. I like his style and the subtle humor in his stories. This book cost me fifty rupees that I paid without bargaining.
The third haul of the day was another collection of short stories-‘The Love Letter & Other Stories’ by Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer. I had heard about Basheer, a famous Malayam writer, a long, long time ago and in fact had read a story by him somewhere. I have forgotten the story and also where I had read it. The thirteen stories in the book are translated by V. Abdulla and the book is published by Sangam Books, Hyderabad which came as a surprise to me because I had never heard of it before. It is another completely new name that I have to learn more about. After I read ‘The Bantam Story’ that I had picked up recently I have made it a habit to check out the names of the publishers. Someday I plan to learn more about the publishers of that era. I got this book for just twenty rupees. It is a lovely, quaint book and I am glad I found it. It has these stories: The Love Letter, Mother, If War is to End, The Shore of Solitude, Tiger, Poovan Banana, A Man, Bully Panicker, The Blue Light, A Little Old Love Story, The World Renowned Nose, The Snake and the Mirror, Elephant Wool.
Until recently I was under the impression that I knew quite a bit about the classic crime writers of the past like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Thomas and so on. But apparently there’s a large gap in my knowledge. Ross Macdonald is a name I have read about but for some reason I did not seem to pay much attention to his books that I saw often mostly in second hand book stores. Last Sunday when I saw ‘The Wycherly Woman’ by Ross Macdonald in a heap selling for only twenty rupees I decided to buy it.
The last find was a title by one of my favorite writers- Dave Barry. When I saw ‘Babies and Other Hazards of Sex’ by Dave Barry I just couldn’t resist picking it up though I have two copies of the same title at home. The price was also just right- thirty rupees, another impetus to buy it without a second thought. With this title the haul last Sunday was a total of five books. The total haul till date this year is thirty three books.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Midweek Haul

There’s nothing more exciting for a book lover than finding a book on books. Over the years I’ve managed to find books on writing ( more than 100 titles) books on reading ( ‘Ruined by Reading’ by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, ‘Ex-Libris’ Anne Fadiman, ‘How Reading Changed My Life’ by Anna Quindlen, ‘How to Read and Why’ by Harold Bloom ) and a few books on books (‘The Groaning Shelf’ by Pradeep Sebastian, ‘84, Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff) and also a few memoirs by editors and publishers (‘Stet’ by Diana Athill, ‘At Random’ by Bennett Cerf). But nothing interests me as much as reading a book on books. Sometime last week I cut loose from the tedium at the office and dropped in at the Best Books store at Lakdikapul. There I found ‘The Bantam Story’ by Clarence Petersen. I leafed through the book and discovered it is a treasure trove of information about paperback publishing. I was surprised that this book was priced at just fifty rupees which was a small price to pay for such a wonderful book. In a later post I will try to write more about ‘The Bantam Story.’
Somewhere in a book on writing I remember reading a scene in which a young man refused to meet some guests his father had invited to a party. I did not take note of where these passages were taken from but I remember the effect the scene had on me. I had thought that the young man was being rude though I did not know the reasons.
After picking up ‘The Bantam Story’ the next book I saw was a brand new copy of ‘The Graduate’ by Charles Webb. It was a Penguin title that I rarely miss buying. But before buying it I decided to read the first paragraphs. I was surprised to see that the scene I had read about sometime back in the book on writing came from ‘The Graduate’ by Charles Webb. It sealed my decision to buy the book. It was priced at hundred rupees but I did not mind it because I realized I wouldn’t be able to find the title on the pavement at Abids.

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, an online shopping portal.

Here's the link:

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.