May 27, 2008

Dusty Pages

I get this inexplicable delight whenever I spot a best seller or a famous book, at the pavement book hawker’s.

Call it a vestige of middle class upbringing, but the day is made if I manage to steal a deal after hours of harangue, fully acknowledging in a remote corner of my mind, the unprinted pages, the typographic errors and other minor flaws that lurk within those glossy covers.
This sort of mutated into a mild addiction, a couple of years back, and I began to amass books. Books that were neatly stacked in my cupboard, amidst a hoarde of other miscellany; books that were never read beyond the blurb and the preface.

Books that were lent to friends and relatives, with beaming pride in recollection of the bargaining mastery behind their possession. Books that were dutifully reminded to be returned, with a statutory warning of not revealing the contents, for they were yet to be read by the owner, and would be read someday, sometime.

Not that I am a poor reader. My reading speed is average,and my attention span can hold for alteast a couple of days. The longest book I have read was of 1200 pages. The genre of my reading is decently wide, and I read a range of authors.
Although I have always liked reading, I have never really owned books. I used the library, or liberally borrowed from everyone I knew.

Maybe the lack of pressure to finish a book (now really owning them), or sheer intimidation by the length of printed matter made me put them them away for later.
With this hypothesis in mind, I began to feed on a staple of short stories, various collections borrowed from the library. I read them whenever I could find a moment, once even dropping a book into a bowl of sambar that I was stirring.

Revitalised by this exercise, I began to plod through those books I purchased. But, sadly they got tucked under the pillow, stashed beneath the bed, and a few even found their way to the attic. They had began to symbolize a lapse. They sent me on a guilt trip whenever I chanced a glance.

Then my mother started nagging me about the clutter they were making, and threatned to throw them away along with the old newspapers. The thought of the fruits of my labourious bargain being reduced to meagre change spurred me into action, yet again.
On a fine lazy Sunday, I locked myself up with one of those seemingly innocuous ones. I drew up a chart, with the targetted no of pages, Vs an ambitious time estimate. I set the alarm for the first chapter. And began to read.
The alarm rang. And I woke up. Chin deep in page no 5, chapter 1.

I still wage my war against the dusty pages. Managing to cajole extra time out of my mother, now and then.

My current (will always be current) list of dust collectors:
1. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenence
2. A collection of Shakespere’s tragedies
3. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
4. Some Irving Wallace novel (forgot the name)
5. Bourne Series (Read the Ultimatum, from the library)
6. And countless e books (my battle against e books deserves a seperate post)
What’s yours ? *:)

P.S :
* : A desperate measure to absolve myself of all that guilt.


musafir said...

Okay, so you asked for it :)

Whatever else I am, I'm very organized with my books. So much so that my room presents a curious sight -- the top two shelves are full of my books stacked neatly, divided into categories, arranged by size, dusted regularly and gazed upon with fondness. Underneath that are two shelves which look like a warzone, full of all kinds of paraphernalia and are a constant source of strife between me and my mother. And yes, been there done that with the bargaining :) -- from the pavement stalls in front of the Cosmopolitan club to Triplicane to Pondy Bazaar to Moore Market and the Central Station ... Best buy was a mint-condition book on Imagination in Chess which when I started haggling was priced at 225 and I finally ended up buying it for about 50 bucks, I think.

So yes, instead of collecting dust there's always a list of books I'm reading at the same time. In no particular order:

1. Thus Spoke Zarathustra
2. Indian Philosophy - Volume 1
3. Genius (by Richard Gleick)
4. The Mckinsey Mind
5. My Experiments With Truth
6. Blind Willow Sleeping Woman
7. State Of Fear
8. Selected Poems of W.H. Auden

So there :D ... yes, yes, one is very promiscuous!

Karthik said...

The middle class upbringing made me search for books on pavements - and i have built up quite a collection !! But am very very careless with books and keep lending them left right and center without bothering to ever follow up. But the funny thing is that there are still lots of books lying around (no one interested in picking them up probably).. Well my current list includes -

1) Complete works of O Henry (a friend picked it up yesterday from me - gotta get it back)

2) Osho - dont recall the name

3) Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance (3rd or 4th time)

4) Shalimar the Clown (Rushdie's masterpiece - like this book a lot)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Heh... I've several books that has been done half-way - host of books with book-marks somewhere in the middle or towards end... few of them:
1) Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
2) Surely, You must be joking, Mr.Feynman
3) Power of Now
4) etc etc...
The book that i recently could read to finish was "My experiments with Truth"...

~SuCh~ said...


Evil grin.. :) Always gives one a diabolical kick to feed on confessions :P

@G & karthik:

Zen rocks... The book is an instant sleeping pill.. havin been written totally in the present tense, with very less or no dialogue.
One chapter is composed entirely of a list of things to go into a travel case.

Citric Acid said...

I got War and peace too. Had a tough time deciding between Anna Kareinna and this one and finally got this. It is still lying and I read it only when I find it too hard to sleep.

Other books that are in the cupboard are all read immediately and are waiting to be re-read. Atlas shrugged -Ayn Rand, The road less travelled are books that will get a second reading soon.

aravindh KRISHNAMOORTHY said...

These problems seem too unfamiliar :-)

~SuCh~ said...

@citric acid :
Actually I did read the first part of War and Peace quite fast... Even the bit about the war manoeuvers was quite good... But the sheer weight of the book, made it difficult to read it without a table.. And most of my reading is done squatting on the floor or before going to sleep :D



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